Friday, April 30, 2010

The End: National Poetry Month Is Over

April 30: “For today's prompt, write a letting go poem. The poem could be about letting go of a relationship; it could be about letting go of anger; it could be about letting go of a tree branch; or it could even be about, yes, letting go of this April challenge. There are so many things we can let go.“

Alas, the end has come to National Poetry Month and to the Poem A Day Challenge for April. Writing a "letting go" poem offers many paths. But in honor of squeezing yet another poem into a day, busy-ness came to mind. Today's offering is short and sweet because now I must get busy so we can leave for a weekend camping trip---lots to do. Busy, busy, busy....

Letting Go Of Busy
By Bill Kirk

Busy is as busy does.
So, why are we so busy?
Should busy bees our mentors be
And life be all a-tizzy?

Why not add a little sloth—
Try letting go of busy?
Moderation in all things
Will make you far less dizzy.

Guess I’ll kick back and enjoy
A few things I have missed.
But first I’d better check things off
My daily duty list.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

And Suddenly... There Were Two Days Left

April 29: “For today's prompt, I want you to take the phrase "And Suddenly (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Some examples: "And suddenly we were lost," "And suddenly over," "And suddenly banana," "And suddenly sudden," "And suddenly the poem I was writing turned into a killer robot," etc.“

The first thing that pops into my head for this one is the song “Along Came John” with all the “and then…” lines in the story-song. For those of you who can still remember roller skate keys, that song is probably parked out there in your long term memory under a lonely, flickering mental street light. With that introduction, you're probably thinking this poem will surely be on the lighter side. Alas, no.

And Suddenly It Happened
By Bill Kirk

As with any human endeavor,
For better or worse,
At least one person starts it.

Perhaps a single thought or feeling
In someone’s mind or heart is the genesis.
But until it takes flight,
It is just a secret.

Once expressed, perhaps a common reaction erupts—
A catalyst, inspiring or offending.
You know, like “Windows 7 was my idea” or
“Let’s make anyone who looks like
They ought not be here,
Prove they should be.”
Then, suddenly, the world changes.

Yet what is it about any “and suddenly” moment
That bestows its import?
Could we not say all “and suddenly” moments
Occur only when acknowledged and accepted,
By the some or the many?
And by its logical extension,
Is it not likely any such moments not thusly recognized,
Would simply die on the vine?

Then, just as suddenly,
The waiting “and suddenly”
Would simply fail to materialize,
For better or worse.

May we have the wisdom to discern
Which “and suddenly” moments
Are worthy measures of human progress,
And which would be far better
Never to have seen the sudden light of day.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Poem A Day Challenge for April 28

April 28: “For today's prompt, write an end of the line poem. Maybe the narrator of your poem is at the end of his or her line. Other possible lines that have an end: assembly lines, phone lines, power lines, rail lines, graph lines, dotted lines, waiting lines, lines of poetry, etc.“

This one seemed to come more easily, maybe because "end of the line" is a phrase I often use myself in the context of telephone (and now e-mail) conversations. It's interesting how certain phrases take on the mantel of artistic expression, conjuring up clear images of times past even in their present day use. Two tin cans and a string anyone?

Language As Art—The End Of The Line
By Bill Kirk

“I hope all are well
On your end of the line.
Everyone’s swell here—
We’re doing just fine.”

Brief conversations
In another place and time,
When mutual assurance of wellness
Was all that was needed.
Especially when the two ends of the line
Were long distances apart.

How was it that threes
Were so important back then?
If it couldn’t be said in three minutes or less,
That’s what a three cent stamp was for.
And three or more houses connected
By the same phone line was a party—
A party line, that is.

Perhaps folks were busier back then
And didn’t have time for long conversations.
Knowledge beyond wellbeing
Was mostly considered frivolous and unnecessary.
And just getting by took
Almost more time and energy
Than most folks had.

Emergencies were a different matter, of course.
Even the party lines had rules—
Everyone had better get off
Their ends of the line
To open it up for a call to the doctor.

But it had better be a real emergency
That couldn’t be handled with a little
Coal oil, snuff, fireplace ashes and
A piece of cloth cut from the hem of Mamaw’s skirt.
Castor Oil took care of most everything else.

Emergencies thus defined were rare.
And because phone calls were how
Emergencies got reported,
No one wanted to get a phone call in the first place.
But if you were unlucky enough to get one,
Finding out if everyone was well
On the other end of the line
Was all that was necessary.

“Everyone OK on that end of the line?”
“Yep. We’re doin’ just fine.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Super Two-fer: Poem A Day Challenge for April 24, 25, 26 and 27

All I can say is the past four days have been a bit jam packed. The writing of the poems was challenge enough, and even more the public posting of them, which I didn’t get done each day. So, here they are, all four poems posted in one fell swoop from April 24, 25, 26 and 27—works in progress, one and all.

April 24: “For today's prompt, write an evening poem. My initial thought is that this poem would somehow involve the night, but upon further reflection, I guess it could be about evening things up or something.”

The Evening Of The Day
By Bill Kirk

When the long day’s labor’s done
And when all but gone’s the sun,
Fatigue wraps itself
Like a heavy cloak
Around the old man’s body,
At long last bound for rest.

His rough, work-worn hands
Weave their calloused digits
In thanksgiving for the
Warm bread and steaming bowl
At table before him.

Now, dusk approaches as
The day invites the dark night.
Even time is near—the end of toil and care.
And in this peaceful moment,
The evening of the day
Brings longed for respite
To body and spirit.


April 25: “For today's prompt, write a poem inspired by a song. Be sure to include the song and artist (if known) with your poem, so that we can all make our own mix CDs to write poetry.”
This one is a challenge indeed, maybe because the possibilities are almost endless in the choosing. Will it be the first song that pops into our heads or a selection driven by mood or genre or our need in the moment? And anyway, isn’t the song is its own poem? So, what makes us think we might say it better? Or maybe we are simply to let the song speak to us and capture the moment.

Oh What Song To Choose?
By Bill Kirk

I listen to the radio of my mind
Wondering what song
Will most inspire the writing
Of even more words
Than those already penned
By the original writer.

But what if the song writer
Takes offense that someone
Might dare to suggest
Enough was not said the first time?

That is, for a song to inspire,
Would it not, by definition,
Have said all that should be said
In the very best way when first written?
And, by extension, if more is needed,
Would that not mean the original song
Had somehow missed the mark?

Unless, that is,
The inspired poem is short and sweet
And written just in such a way
That no one will mistake
The poem’s complimentary intent.

In that case, I’ve already said enough.
Allow me to introduce my inspiration:
“I Write The Songs (That Make The Whole World Sing)”.
And dare I name the original writer
Or only give a clue
To those not from planet Earth?
The by line belongs to
The one, the only artist
Formerly, now and always
Known as Barry.

April 26: “For today’s prompt, write a "more than 5 times" poem. Of course, I'll let you decide what that means. Maybe you'll write a poem about something the narrator does more times than preferrable; maybe you'll write a deja vu poem; or maybe you'll just write the same line and/or stanza more than 5 times. I just know that multiple poets recently said the "More than 5 times" subject line would make a great prompt, so I'm listening to the group. Have at it!“

If I’ve Told You Once
By Bill Kirk

If I’ve told you once,
I’ve told you more than five times:

Call when you are going to be late.
Wash your hands before supper.
Get your elbows off the table.
Don’t go swimming right after you eat.
Do your homework before play time.
Buckle your seatbelt.
No listening to your i-Pod at the dinner table.
No mocking.
Turn off the light when you leave the room.
Hang up your Sunday clothes after church.
Take your hat off at the table.
Don’t tease your sister.
Watch where you’re going.
Stop your fidgeting.
Brush your teeth before bed time.
Eat your vegetables if you want dessert.
Don’t talk with your mouth full.
Wear your helmet when you ride your bike.
Close the refrigerator.
Sit still in church.
Don’t forget to ask to be excused.
Don’t punch your brother.
No running with scissors.
Don’t sit so close to the TV—you’ll go blind.
Put on sunscreen.
Tuck your shirt in.
Tie your shoes or you’re going to trip.
Pull your britches up.
Don’t drag your feet.

Oh, and one more thing---I love you….

April 27: “Today is a two for Tuesday prompt, so you've got two options:

1. Write a hopeful poem.
2. Write a hopeless poem.“

Considering both options, I tend to come down more on the side of hopefulness. So, I took the first option from this two-fer. Hopefully, this will be a hopeful poem….

There Must Be Hope After All
By Bill Kirk

I heard the other day
That some folks
Jes’ don’t believe in hope.
Well how much fun is that?

Without hope,
We’d sure be a sorry lot.
Why, there’d be nothin’
To look forward to.
So I guess we’d be lookin’
Backwards all the time.

Well, if we did that,
We might as well
Turn ourselves around and
Walk backwards.
Then at least we’d save ourselves
The trouble of constantly
Lookin’ over our shoulders.

Of course, if we was
Walkin’ backwards everywhere,
Then we’d prob’ly trip and fall.
And if we fell down a lot,
We’d spill stuff that we’re carryin’.
And we’d prob’ly hurt our bums or crack our heads.
Well, how much fun is that?

Besides, what’s the point
Of always lookin’ where you been
Instead of where you’re goin’?
So, it jes’ makes good sense,
To turn back around and walk forwards.
But if we did that,
Then we’d be lookin’ forward to things, wouldn’t we?

Well, I’ll be.
I guess there must be hope after all.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Poem A Day Challenge For April 23

April 23: “For today's prompt, write an exhausted poem. The poem can be a first person account of your own exhaustion, or it can describe the exhaustion of someone (or something) else. Heck, I guess it even could be about exhaust, huh?“

I must say, getting this rhyme to fall was like pulling teeth. And it may still need a bit of work. I'm exhausted....

Exhaustion Is A Drag
By Bill Kirk

Exhaust is just an output;
Exhaustion? Work’s accrual—
When outputs surpass inputs,
Or work demands more fuel.

To counter your exhaustion
You’ll need to get some rest.
Add ample food and water,
To feel your very best.

But if you keep on pushing—
Light candles at both ends,
You’ll burn out far too quickly
And illness never mends.

It’s better when you balance
Some down time with your zest.
So, when you face a challenge,
You’ll be up to the test.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Green And Blue And Swirly White

April 22: “For today's prompt, write an Earth poem. You can decide what an Earth poem is. Maybe it's a poem about the planet; maybe it's actually the lowercase earth (a gardening or burial poem?); maybe it's just a poem that happens on (or to) Earth; maybe it's even written in the voice of extraterrestrials (that might be fun). No matter how you decide to roll with it, have a very poetic Earth Day!”

Green And Blue And Swirly White
By Bill Kirk

Hello, Earth. I see you there,
Outside my space ship, day or night;
Clear, cool water; fresh, clean air—
All green and blue and swirly white.

I remember when we left.
In giant ships, we all took flight.
Mother Earth was spent, bereft—
Not green and blue and swirly white.

Someone said we had to go—
To give the Earth a chance to fight.
Cleansing tides must ebb and flow
To heal and make our planet right.

‘Til that time, we’ll always roam,
Our distant planet in our sight;
Hoping that we’ll soon go home,
To green and blue and swirly white.

Twinkle, twinkle, earth in orbit,
I wish for you the sun’s bright light.
Change its warmth, as you absorb it,
To green and blue and swirly white.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

According To Steve Jobs

April 21: “For today's prompt, take the phrase "According to (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Example titles might be: "According to Bob," "According to these instructions," "According to the government," "According to the sun," etc. “

I’ve noticed my “poetry” has shape shifted a bit in recent days and I’m not sure if I like the form it’s taking as free verse flirts with prose. Maybe it’s a matter of available time to think and compose—boundaries which hours or minutes impose. To the extent I can get close to a finish product, I will. Otherwise, at least the last few efforts are definitely works in progress….

According To Steve Jobs
By Bill Kirk

We are now poised on the launch pad
To the future of information accessibility.
App control is here,
Right in the palms of our hands.

Just think.
Adding “folders” technology to your phone
Will increase the number of apps
At your finger tips to over two thousand.
And did you know, there is now the potential
To imbed ten ads for you to wade through
Every thirty minutes while app surfing?

I can hardly wait.

We’ve come a long way
From crank phones and party lines.
But, doesn’t it make you wonder
Who or what is in the evolutionary driver seat?
Is technology evolving to meet our needs?
Or, instead, is human evolution
Being driven to keep up with technological change?

Never mind being tall and good looking
As a foot in the door of success.
Stilus-shaped pointer fingers and thumbs
May soon become the most sought after
Physical attributes
As the true indicators of human progress.
Then, again, maybe all we need to do
Is grow longer finger nails.

Who knows? Nail salons for men
May be just around the corner.

Poem A Day Challenge: April 19 and 20

April 19: “For today's prompt, write a poem about somebody and be sure to include the person's name in the title of your poem (no reason to hide the person's identity here). Write a poem about Abraham Lincoln, Emily Dickinson, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, your next door neighbor, your child, or the person standing behind you.“

Dylan Christopher Jon Kirk
By Bill Kirk

In times past, life seemed to move
More slowly for kids growing up.

Fast forward to today for proof that
Drinking out of a fire hose is not an
Exaggerated metaphor for learning—
Just ask Dylan Christopher Jon Kirk,
A child of the late 20th century,
And he will tell you….

Information is flowing at light speed
And growing in volume nearly as fast.
Yet today’s youth have been gifted
Only with the same 24-hour clock as olden times.

So, what does that mean for
Dylan and his generation?
Given the same available time
To absorb, process and learn,
Mustn't the learning, of necessity, take place
Far more superficially these days?
Have we now moved to a learn-replicate-dump
Learning reality—take the test, forget it
And move on?

How sad it would be if
Academic content is
Still being presented
With 1950s learning expectations,
While the 21st century learning milieu,
Embued with a constant stream
Of rapid-fire electronic stimulation,
Now forces retention at
Such a superficial level
That little in-depth learning
Takes place at all.

Good luck, Dylan Kirk
And to all who follow....

Is that homeschooling
I hear knocking at the door?

April 20: “Today is a two for Tuesday prompt. Here are the two options:

1. Write a looking back poem. There are a few ways to tackle this one, I guess. The narrator could be reflecting on the past or literally looking back (like over his or her shoulder).

2. Write a poem that doesn't look back. This poem would be kind of the opposite, I suppose. Narrator who refuses to look back or who is literally looking forward (or I suppose another option even is that the narrator is blind or something).”

Given the choice, I am looking back at simpler times in this poem. For me, this turned out to be a bit of a reflective exercise as I considered the challenges facing kids these days compared to olden times.

Life In The Recent Past On Planet Earth
By Bill Kirk

It was 1994 when a young lad
With two middle names
Came into our lives.
Little did we know
How different life would become for
Our grandson, Dylan, and his generation.
It’s just not the same for kids these days
As it was for me back in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Oh, sure, there were the usual fistfights
In the alley across the street
From the Junior High School at lunch time.
Out of curiosity some of the new eighth graders
Fresh out of elementary school
Might check out the fight scene.
But once or twice was plenty
To take the bloom off that excitement—
Unless you were in the “in crowd”
Or one of the pugilists in the fight.
Besides, lunch recess was short
And swinging from the monkey bars
Was a lot more interesting—and a lot less risky.

Most of the time, the standard
After school formula was homework first.
Playing outside was all the motivation
We needed to get our school work
And chores done quickly.

The only other widely accepted rule
Was getting home in time for supper—
Without being called twice, that is.
If you heard your mom’s distant voice
Calling your name a second time—
Especially your first and last names,
You had better beat it home pronto.

A two-fingered whistle by your Dad
Meant you had to be standing at the bathroom sink
Washing your hands within two minutes
Or be able to prove a near death experience
While playing hide and seek.

Eventually, we got three channels
On our black and white TV—
And all the good shows
Were early evening—after supper.
Lucy and Desi, The Lone Ranger and
Steve Canyon were de riguer around our house.
And by the time Dale and Roy had sung
“Happy Trails To You”, it was bedtime
Unless it were still light outside.
Then, you might get an extra 30 minutes to play.
It just didn’t get any better than that….

Well, unless it was the super large,
Ten cent, soft-serve cone at DQ,
Which always followed the
Mandatory Sunday Drive
After church and Sunday dinner.

For entertainment, we roller skated
In the street with no helmet or knee pads.
Skinned knees were a badge of honor.
In the heat of the summer,
We chewed the melting tar oozing from
The cracks in the street and
Once every two weeks when the
Mosquito Control truck fogged our street,
Running through the DDT cloud
Was fun until our parents noticed
That we hardly ever got
Mosquito bitten.

It was a simpler time, back then,
Without cell phones and electronic games,
Cable TV, movie rentals and 24-hour stores.
With almost no electronic stimulation,
It’s a wonder we survived to adulthood.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

To Wish Is Its Own Reward

April 18: “For today's prompt, take the phrase "To (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Some examples: "To the left, to the left," "To write or not to write," "To Kill a Hummingbird," "To the Doghouse," etc. There are so many possibilities.”

Indeed, there are possibilities galore for this prompt—just choosing a title that is either a noun or a verb, an object or an action, leaves you with seemingly endless options. And there’s the serious or the silly, the reflective or the quirky.

A single letter can totally change the essence of a title or its poem. Consider the difference between “To Arms” (a call to immediate action) and “To Arm” (a potential question for reflective discourse). No doubt Robert Lee Brewer must toss and turn in his sleep to come up with daily prompts to challenge even the titling of a poem, much less the writing of it.

To Wish
Bill Kirk

To wish,
Whether quietly or aloud,
Is to hope, to desire, to anticipate.

As infinitives go, “to wish” is rare.
It holds a singular optimism that
Who we are,
What we are doing and
Where we are going
Will be as good as, or even far better than,
Our immediate here and now.

And to actually take the step
Of making a wish is a
Self declaration of our belief
In boundless possibilities,
Defined and confined
Only by the wisher.

Indeed, the very existence of
“To wish” in our language
Allows us to think in terms as large
As our imaginations are capable.
And then, we can wish even larger still
For something—anything—that is beyond
Everything which doesn’t yet exist.

Simple wishes are sometimes the best.
A child might wish for a silver dollar
In exchange for a first-pulled tooth.
Or a violinist for the purest of notes
To be called forth as bow meets string.
And is it too grand for a writer to wish
For sufficient inspiration to coax
Just the right words onto the page?

To be sure, certain wishes
Might not be in our own best interest
Or that of others.
Wishing a flat tire for the driver
Who just cut you off
Might slather momentary satisfaction
On a bruised psyche.
But what if your instantaneous mental snapshot
Of such an obvious transgression
Fails to take into account
The sick child in the back seat
En route the emergency room?

Even in the naming of our enemies,
Whether briefly or long term,
Do we not wish calamity for them—
And, in contrast, the better for us?
Yet in so doing, are we not the lesser for it?

Instead, aren’t the best wishes unselfish,
Like a prayerful request to improve our lot
But not at the expense of others?

And in our wishing, is it not best to wish boldly—
To let our imaginings run free?
Or do we fail to wish simply for fear of failure?

Wishing is at the heart of living and
Our capacity to wish is its own reward.
Everything else is gravy.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Who, What, When, Where, Why

April 17: “For today's prompt, write a science poem. Science encompasses a lot, so your poem doesn't have to be scientific to still be a science poem. For instance, you could have a poem titled something like "The Science of Love," and then examine a relationship. Voila! A science poem! Of course, it'll be interesting to see how many poets talk about volcanoes and single cell organisms, not to mention finding out how many "mad scientists" are out there." (Robert Lee Brewer)

I must admit to struggling a bit with this one. Partly the modified Limerick format forced me to choose my words carefully. I thought about devoting a separate verse to each of the "W" questions. But each of them is self-defining. So, what more could be said. The result is a short, two-verse poem after a couple hours of work.

Sometimes you're the windshield; sometimes you're the bug....

Who, What, When, Where, Why
By Bill Kirk

The Who, What, When, Where, Why—
Are questions you must try,
To find each clue
In front of you,
Just like a Science guy.

But, wait! There’s one more test
For mysteries solved, not guessed.
Your final task?
The “How” you ask,
Will make your better best.

Friday, April 16, 2010

When Chores Get In The Way, It's Time For A Catch Up Day

April 14: Some days, squeezing out a few minutes to actually make a blog entry of something already written is a few minutes too many. Once again today is a catch up day, pulling the poems from three days into one entry in the Poem A Day Challenge. Apparently, the time hurdle was on my mind as I got the the last of these three. Enjoy. Three prompts from Robert Lee Brewer and my poems for April 14, 15 and 16 follow.

April 14: "For today's prompt, take the phrase "(blank) Island," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. You could do a well-known island, such as "Treasure Island," "Ellis Island," or "Total Drama Island." Or you could make up the name of an island. Or you could even have a long drawn out title….”

Angel Island
By Bill Kirk

Why is it that islands have such allure
And attraction as a point of destination?
Is it simply a matter of
The real estate being in short supply?
Wouldn’t it be odd if it were as simple as that.

But for whatever the reason, islands
Have captured the imagination of
Common folk and Kings,
Of artists and writers and even scientists.
For some, islands have been a prison;
A safe haven for others;
And a guardian at the gate when danger lurks.

Angel Island has been all of those things,
A beauty in The Bay, keeping a watchful eye
On the Golden Gate Bridge.

No one lives there—well, except for
Rangers and caretakers.
What a serene life that must be,
Preserving the history from a distant time,
While being a part of it still.

Wandering amidst the garrison buildings,
The immigration station and detention center,
And the defensive positions of olden times,
Leaves one almost feeling the presence
Of immigrants, detainees and defenders alike—
Ghostly tracings of those who were
Present for whatever purpose.
For those who lived and died
In this water bound isolation,
How did they come to be here?
How long did they stay?
Were they among those who never left?

In silence, the imagined sounds
Of all those souls still resound
Off the decaying walls which had been
Built for permanence so long ago.

In their laughing and crying, their
Moments of sadness and fear,
Did they wonder about the future—
About their future, on this island
Or off?

April 15: “For today's prompt, write a deadline poem. You can interpret what a deadline poem is however you wish. Maybe it's a poem that laments the idea of deadlines. Maybe it's a poem about someone intentionally missing them or who never has problems with them.”

Deadlines—What’s The Big Deal?
By Bill Kirk

How important are deadlines, anyway?
Well, not so important as to have
First billing in Webster.
Indeed, the first choice in defining the word
Tells a tale of those given
A life or death ultimatum—
Stepping over a line in the prison yard
Will make you dead.

I suppose in some way, all who
Fail to submit their written work
By a certain point in time (second definition),
May also feel a measure of death—
As literally their line (of copy)
May be declared dead on arrival
By those in control of such things.

But do deadlines work for those
Marching to the beat of a different drum?
Does being a deadline buster make one an iconoclast
Or just difficult to work with?

Deadlines may be self-imposed
Or established by others.
Either way, a certain pressure is implied
That something will or will not happen
If the deadline is not met—
Work completed,
Postmark applied,
Petition submitted,
Candidacy declared,
Vote cast;
Or even getting to school on time.

It is left to those facing the deadline,
To decide on how important it is for them—
And to accept the consequences
If they are wrong.

What time is it getting to be, anyway?

April 16: “Maybe it's a little too close to tax day, but today's prompt is to write a death poem. You can write about a specific death or consider death as an idea. In the tradition of Emily Dickinson (and other poets), you could even address Death as an entity. Or you can surprise us with a different spin on the subject.”

Ah, Death! Get Thee Behind Me!
By Bill Kirk

On the list of my least favorite things,
Death is clearly out in front of the rest.

Just think of it.
All the things you might ever
Have thought about doing,
Have started but never finished,
Have put off until a better time,
Have saved up for later and
Have actually written into your planner in ink,
Will never get done when you’re dead.

But considering life is terminal,
A time will arrive even before you kick the bucket,
When some of those things on your bucket list
Will never get crossed off because
You waited too long to start and you don’t
Have enough time,
Have enough money,
Have enough energy
Have enough health or
Have anyone left to do it with.
So, dust off your list and get busy.

Here’s to making death work so hard chasing us down,
It will wish it were dead when it does.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another Poem A Day Challenge Two-fer

April 12: “For today's prompt, pick a city, make that the title of your poem, and write a poem. Your poem can praise or belittle the city. Your poem could be about the city or about the people of the city. Your poem could even have seemingly nothing to do with the city. But the simple act of picking a city will set the mood (to a certain degree), so choose wisely.”
La Paz
By Bill Kirk

We once had a house
On Calle Nueve, across the street
From the President of Bolivia.

It’s not every day a kid
Gets to have tea with the First Lady
Or ride on a motorcycle,
Holding on for dear life,
Behind the Captain
Of the Presidential Guard.

Or watch a hundred native dancers in full costume
March through your front gate
To set up a brief rest stop
In the backyard of your house.
My sister and I heard the drums
And horns and flutes
Way down at the end of our street,
Even before we could see the parade.

When the procession turned the corner,
I just knew they would come to our house.
Yet I still couldn’t quite believe it when they did.
Even dad was surprised when he got home.
Mom said they were on their way
To a three-day fiesta in Las Yungas.
Why anyone would want to have
A party in the jungle, I’ll never know.
But they seemed to be having fun.

Then there was the time someone
Gave us a honey bear for a pet.
Of course, we couldn’t keep it.
After all, a honey bear needs to be free.

The river at the end of our street
Raged one year during the rainy season
And washed away the little mud brick shack
Where Mamasita and Papasito lived—
It was the year I was home schooled
To get me ready for fourth grade in the States.
My mom even gave me recess
So I could watch the flood happen.
Two little sheep fell into the water that day
And it took them away,
Never to be seen again.
That was a sad day on our street.
Even the President noticed.

The air is rather thin at 12,000 feet
Which is why fire departments
Hardly ever get any business that high up.
And there’s no such thing
As a two-minute boiled egg—that is,
Unless you like it raw.

Maybe the thin air is why
My memories seem so clear
From once upon a time in La Paz.

April 13: “Two for Tuesday time! Here are today's two prompts:
1. Write a love poem.
2. Write an anti-love poem.”
Given a choice, I’ll take the former. I just can’t seem to get my head into anti-love---maybe if someone has a broken heart, that’s the place they would be.
Spring Is Made For Love
By Bill Kirk

If timing’s your reason
To give love a fling,
The very best season
Has got to be spring.

The summer is super
To heat up your game.
But sunburn and heat waves
Can cool down your flame.

And festive fall fashion
May seem quite the deal.
But hitting the sales
May de-zest your zeal.

A deep chill in winter
Can beg for a spark
But all of those layers
Keep love in the dark.

Although every season
Has lots of potential,
To even your odds,
It’s spring that’s essential.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Poem A Day Challenge--Day 11

April 11: “For today's prompt, take the phrase "The Last (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make that the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Some examples: "The Last Train," "The Last Kiss," "The Last Time I'll Give Directions to a Complete Stranger," "The Last Dance," etc.”

Seemingly on the other end of the spectrum of "until" is "the last". While "until" speaks to what is yet to come, "the last" suggests an end of some particular thing and an unknown future, whether good or bad. But what will be the last or, more importantly, who?

The Last Centurion
By Bill Kirk

At the end of days, real or imagined,
Who will be the last
To walk through the celestial door
After turning out the lights?

Would we not expect it to be
The last remaining Centurion
Or someone else of similar ilk,
Whose gift to us is to
Preserve and protect our way of life?

Indeed, someone must be last.
And, anyway, isn’t that the lot of the Centurion,
Volunteer or not?

Whether sailor, or flyer or gunny or grunt,
Medic or teacher, SWAT cop or Rent-a-Cop,
There are many such Centurions among us.
Both former and present,
They have done their due diligence.

They are the ones
Who gave their last full measure
Or were spared to tell the tale
Of how they made it through
Their last day in battle,
Whether fought in jungle or desert or city street;
Or while protecting children in school
As footsteps and the “pop-pop-pops”
Approached from down the hall.

Their recounted memories flash by them and us
Like so many jerky newsreel images.
And still we would ask them
To answer one final call to duty.

And without shirking,
They would willingly step forward on our behalf—
To make sure all others have made it out.
To be the last soldier,
The last hero,
The last Centurion.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Don't Believe All You Hear On The Radio

April 10: “…write a horror poem. Make it scary. Make it cheesy. Make it funny. Whatever you do, link it somehow to horror. Who knows? Maybe someone will write the next great raven poem.”

This prompt may be tough, as I’m not a great fan of horror.

Don’t Touch That Dial—It’s Halloween!
By Bill Kirk

‘Tis a dark and stormy night."
Indeed, the moon is shrouded by low-hanging clouds,
Rolling past, pushed by a howling wind.
Branches dance erratically, all but disconnected
From massive, creaking trunks. Snap! Something breaks.

Momentary flashes of moon and stars
Yield brief hints of what awaits those
Who choose to travel on such a turbulent night.
Will we make it to our destination?
Or only wish we had?

This is not a night for the engine to fail.
Is that why we stopped?
A lone car approaches in the distance.
In a flash, virtually on top of us,
High beams shock shut our wide-open eyes.

Then nothing as tail lights disappear in the distance.
The first drops of an impending storm
Dot the dusty windshield, leaving spider-like reflections
Of the dimming interior lights.
Better turn the engine off to save the battery.

How long can a battery last anyway?
Without it and the lights, the night is impenetrable.
Yet squandering it by leaving the lights on,
Gives the visual advantage to anyone outside looking in.
That's right. They can see us—each one of us.

Turn the car off then. But can we at least listen to the radio?
Anything for a little distraction—even for a few minutes.
Hey, does anyone have a cell phone? No matter. No reception.
Better save their batteries, too. Wait.
Go back to that last radio station. What did that guy just say?

“Mass escape from Ravenscroft…. Two guards killed…
Throats slit; hoisted feet first on the flagpole.
Three others left surgically blind, deaf or dumb.
No sign of where the monsters went
And no way to track them.

“To all who hear this broadcast, stay in your homes
And let no one in, not even if you think you know their voice.
If you are out, keep driving, as far and as fast as you can.
And hope you can find shelter quickly in the company
Of those you can trust for help and safekeeping.

“For there is evil prowling the night,
Looking for a hiding place away from the storm,
No matter what they must do to find it.
And just for entertainment, they will spare no suffering.
Relishing the screams and pleadings of their victims.

“If you are in your car, do not get out. Lock every door.
Turn out every light. Stay out of sight.
If you hear any scratching on your car, stay quiet and do not move.
Dial 911 if you can and give your location to the authorities.
Only turn the radio on for hourly updates from this station.”




Friday, April 9, 2010

Poem A Day for April 8 and 9--Too Much Good Stuff Goin' On

April 8: Today the prompt is “…pick a tool, make that the title of your poem, and write your poem. There are the more obvious tools, of course: hammer, screwdriver, wrench, etc. But there also less obvious tools and/or specialized tools available as well.” It took me a bit of thought to figure out how I wanted to handle this one. There's the obvious tools, how tools can be used for other than their intended tool identity, people as tools and a host of other possibilities. But when it finally came down to it, I realized I was sitting right in front of my favorite tool....

By Bill Kirk

As tools go, computers
Aren’t oft thought a tool—
Not like, say, a hammer—
But indeed they’re quite cool.

For what gives a thingy
Its toolness to claim?
Does its fame rest entirely
On whatever’s its name?

Without a computer
We’d be a sad lot,
Left to pen and to pencil
Each squiggle and jot.

Although those without them,
May write with great zest,
At some point a computer
Makes us good, better, best.

April 9: “…write a self-portrait poem. Other artists study themselves to create compositions (not all of them exactly flattering either), so it is only natural that poets, who are word artists, write self-portrait poems from time to time. In fact, some poets make self-portrait poetry "their main thing." For at least today, make it yours." Talk about a challenge. At first, I thought "piece of cake". But then where do you start and what do you include---or leave out?

A Self-Portrait
By Bill Kirk

What you sees is what you gets;
A happy life with no regrets.
OK, there could be one or two—
Or hardly more than just a few.

There was that time I smoked a pack
In just ten minutes behind the shack
At grandpa’s farm—and I turned green.
But since then, I’ve been strictly clean.

And who knew saki and home made beer,
Would make my vision so unclear?
I thought I’d guzzled fire starter.
After that I got much smarter.

Once I bought some swampland, too.
What a deal—I had no clue.
At last, we sold it ten years later—
Never found the alligator.

Worn some blisters; skinned some knees.
Got stung by some wasps and bees.
Lost my freckles and some hair,
And a few bets here and there,

Found true love along the way
Thank my lucky stars each day.
Life is full of blessings now.
Ask me and I’ll tell you how!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Until Death Do Us Part

April 7: “…For today's (Poem A Day Challenge) prompt, take the phrase "Until (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and write the poem.”

After yesterday’s ekphrastic challenge, I’m ready for anything. At first, writing an “until …” poem seemed a bit perplexing. But then I got to thinking “until” is such a future word and, as such, is laden with hope and promise—not a bad concept to run with. And what better "until" sentiment, especially after 40 years of marriage, than "Until Death Do Us Part"? So, dedicated to my wife on her birthday, here is...

Until Death Do Us Part
By Bill Kirk

Only five words.
What more is there to say?

And what’s not to like about “until”?
Imbedded in the word is the promise
Of a future unbridled and unscripted—
As for the ultimate parting?
That's got togetherness written all over it.

"Until": What better word is there
To suggest life anticipated?
And the death thing?
Well, it's just a matter of time
Until we exit planet Earth;
With luck, the longer the better.

Yet, sad to say,
Many are unwilling or unsatisfied
To allow the meaning of this simple,
Five-word contract to stand as stated.
More is always said—and done—to move the parting
Ahead and trade the sweet for sorrow.
What would be whole and unassailable
Is cast aside, deconstructed.

Why can’t we leave well enough alone?
Is not the intended fulfillment of promises made,
The very essence of human goodness?
Why is staying the course and
Reaping the richness of life interwoven,
Eschewed in favor of far lesser momentary gain?
Is this the prisoner’s dilemma all over again?

As the story goes,
In the absence of communication, trust trumps all.
Yet, lacking trust, ego attempts to claim its share,
Only to sacrifice greater gain, greater good, greater love.

Why is that?
Is reason so hard to preserve
In the face of offended sensibilities?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Another Two-Poem Catch-up Day

April 5: The prompt on day five of the Poem A Day Challenge was to “… write a TMI poem (or too much information poem).” This one gave me a bit of a creative challenge—not so much the poetry part but how to limit the limitless view of the subject, yet capture its essence without writing "too much." Here goes....

Too Much Information—May I Have Some More, Please
By Bill Kirk

I woke up this morning
And what did I see?
Too much information
Surrounding me.

A common lament, wouldn’t you say?
What is it about information
That makes it a problem to solve instead of a gift?

Are we any better off after being assaulted
By TV, radio, print media and other sensory messages
For most of every twenty-four hours?
How many words, images, sounds and tactile tidbits—
Often classified as news—
Are insufficient,
Or too much to process?

Is information simply a stimulant
Which some need more than others?
Are some never sated and others overwhelmed?
Has evolution cyber-adapted the few with filters
To disregard all but the most essential?
Or are we turning off even important stuff
Just to escape information overload?

Alas, perhaps it is only the
Useless or unwanted information we rail against.
Do we really want to hear it announced
On our favorite talk show,
That a trans-gender someone
Is having sex and lots of it?
Or perhaps, instead, we secretly want to know how.

Should we be giddy or feel guilty
Having the knowledge that someone previously anonymous
Has become more comfortable
With their newly recognized
Multi-morphed identity?

In an instant forty million people
Are now routinely exposed
To what was previously private.
Should it still be?

Where is Paul Simon in our moment of cultural need?
Who will be the one to pen "Bluetooth Conversations"?
Who will immortalize the public musings of our
Unknown neighbor on the metro train,
As he shares the results of his colonoscopy?
And what about those pesky genital warts?

“Yeah, the doctor told me they aren’t contagious.
(Now Yelling) No, I said contagious.
Reception in this tunnel is really the pits.
I said pits.”

Pardon me, but that’s more than I bargained for
On my commute to work.

And yet we want more….

April 6: “…For this prompt, write an ekphrastic poem. According to John Drury's The Poetry Dictionary, ekphrastic poetry is "Poetry that imitates, describes, critiques, dramatizes, reflects upon, or otherwise responds to a work of nonliterary art, especially the visual." So, I've provided links to two pieces of art, and I want you to pick one (or both) to write an ekphrastic poem. (It would be helpful for you to mention which art you picked.)

1. Pocahontas, by Annie Leibovitz
2. Flight of the Witches, by Francisco de Goya”

EKPHRASTIC? Who could have guessed? Setting aside the odd name of this poetic form, for me these kinds of prompts (using images as a foil for the written word)trigger a quick creative response. In a way, maybe it’s a bit of the same process (although from opposite sides) an artist goes through when handed a story to illustrate. Artists react to the words. In this prompt, writers are asked to react to a visual image. I chose the image of Pocahontas.

Run, Pocahontas! Run!
By Bill Kirk

Run, Pocahontas! Run! The British are coming!
Your carefree days as a 12-year old princess
Will soon be a distant memory.

Run, Pocahonta! Run! The warmth of
Indian Summer days will soon enough
Be replaced with Northern Virginia snow.

Run, Pocahontas! Run! Two years after
Meeting John Smith, he will be injured and
Return to England in 1609.

Run, Pocahontas! Run! Your marriage in 1611
To Powhatan warrior, Kocoum, at age 16
Will soon end mysteriously,

Run, Pocahontas! Run! In 1614, you will be
Ransomed for English settlers and tools
Held by your native countrymen.

Run, Pocahontas! Run! You will marry English colonist,
John Rolfe, in 1614 and will bear him a son,
Thomas Rolfe, in January 1615.

Run, Pocahontas! Run! In 1616, you will travel
To England, be treated kindly by Queen Anne,
And be reunited briefly with John Smith in 1617.

Run, Pocahontas! Run! In March 1617, you will depart
For Virginia with your family and become ill on the
River Thames—and die at age 22 at Gravesend, England.

Be at rest, Pocahontas. The run is over. In your short life,
You connected two worlds across an ocean,
Making history and sparking myths that live on today.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Poem A Day For April 3 and April 4

Time got away from me before I could enter my poetic post from yesterday. But it was a good day, nonetheless, spent with our grandson's drumline at their final gathering of the season---the annual picnic. Those times don't come often and are their own reward. So, today's post includes the poems from both yesterday and today. And as it turns out, both seem quite a propos.

April 3: Our challenge for today was to "take the phrase "Partly (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make that the title of your poem, and then write the poem."

Partly Written
By Bill Kirk

Some days the best we can hope for as writers
Is work partly written.

Try as we might, the words don’t seem to flow.
Maybe the muse has left us
In search of more fertile fields.
Maybe the intrusion of life gets in the way.
Or are some days simply more or less creative?

Yet on those days, is it not better to make the attempt
Than let the time we would spend writing,
Silently slip away unused?
Too bad if that happens.

So, write on, even if the work ends up
Only partly written.

April 4: "... write a history poem. This could mean a poem about your country's history, the history of an event or a tool, or even your own personal history."

On Making History
By Bill Kirk

With each passing day,
In our own way,
We make history.

Each of us carves out some small or large
Piece of meaning in time and space.
What did you do today to mark you place?

Did you simply wake up for breakfast
And wait for bedtime?
Or did you experience
A different kind of awakening---
Learning or contributing
Some certain thing or idea
To give meaning to life,
Your own or others?

With each passing day,
How well will you choose
To use it?

For the day’s relative length grows shorter—
A day in the life of a five year old
Seems much longer than my days
Three generations hence.
Why is that?

Perhaps it is the proportional share
An apparently shrinking
Twenty-four hour clock takes out
Of the increasing span of one’s life.

Until its end, that is.

And then we will no longer make history
In the doing of things;
But only in the affect
We may have had on others,
Through what we have done or left undone.

Either way,
With each passing day,
We make history….

Friday, April 2, 2010

Writer's Digest "Poem A Day Challenge"

At the risk of squandering any chances of later publication, I have decided to post the poems I am writing each day as part of the Writer's Digest "Poem A Day Challenge" here on my blog. Of course, after you read them, you might conclude there isn't much I'm risking.

If any readers are interested in joining the effort, the blogsite is at . A daily prompt is provided and participants are left on their honor to write a poem each day during April which is National Poetry Month. Guidelines are provided on the site.

My apologies for not thinking about this yesterday. So, today you will get two poems. With luck, I'll be able to keep up with the daily prompts.

Yesterday's prompt was to write a lonely poem. The second prompt (for today) is to write a poem about water. Enjoy.

April 1: Write a lonely poem.

Lone-ly Is What We Make It
By Bill Kirk

"Lonely" is a lonely word—
Quite unlike any other.
Its closest kin are worlds apart
For "lonely" has no brother.

Other words with "lone" inside
Don't get the same reaction.
For "lonely" hurts but all the rest
Suggest some satisfaction.

Loners are their own best friends
"Who cares who's angry at us?"
For they can be alone, you see—
Quite happy with their status.

Even those more social need
Their respite from the rabble.
To gain relief from crush and press—
Choose quiet over babble.

In the end we'll be alone,
Each left to make our choices:
Let fear abide or be at peace—
Rob "lonely" of its voices.

April 2: Write a water poem.

Water—A Metaphor?
By Bill Kirk

Our lives are like an endless stream
Flowing from our source—
A well-spring of vitality
As we live and learn and love.
We would do well to practice those three “Ls”,
Wouldn’t you say?

As with water, is there not
A certain inevitability in life?
Do we not live in pursuit of our own level—
Our own happiness abundant?
Sometimes it seems to come in drips and drops;
Other times in a rage.
Or in movements so slow and deep
As to almost be

Will we be channeled on this day
Or unbridled, left to find our own way,
Over rocks and roots large and small—
Forming eddies as we swirl and pause?

Yet so profound is the path of our fluid lives,
Do we dare assume
We are in control of our destiny?
Or is the better course to relinquish
To forces unseen and unfathomable,
Knowing no matter what
We will reach our destination?

That’s what water does.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rhyme Of The Month

For those of you who enjoy using word play in your poetry, here's a short example that has a bit of a riddle twist to it. This selection is the Rhyme Of The Month for April on my website at . Drop by any time for the latest month's rhyme or just to browse around. All visitors are welcome.

A Tale Of Two Burgers
By Bill Kirk

At dinner one spring evening,
The crowd was all aglow,
As conversation sparkled
And food began to flow.

But over in one corner
I saw the oddest sight.
One table with two burgers;
Both waiting for a bite.

One burger kept his wrap on.
I guessed his "friends" were late.
He seemed quite hot and steamy,
Yet not at all irate.

The second Bigger Burger,
Looked anxious and displeased.
He left no doubt about it,
That he was really cheesed.

Then almost in an instant,
I noticed something strange.
Big Burger's disposition
Had made a major change.

For when the soda got there,
Plus ketchup and some fries.
His quibbles turned to nibbles
Before my very eyes.

When, in a slurp, they finished,
Together in one bite,
Just one--the Burger Meister--
Was still around that night.

The smaller burger'd vanished,
And it was plain to see,
One gulp had made that burger
A mealtime memory.

So, if you spot two burgers
That oddly seem sureal,
One "Burger" might be hungry.
The other? Just a meal.