Poetry Prompts: January 14 - 20

Four weeks - two countries - 28 poems - countless different ways of responding to the world, a few of which are seen here. 

January 14: "Even the Rain"
by Agha Shahid Ali

What will suffice for a true-love knot? Even the rain?
But he has bought grief’s lottery, bought even the rain.

“Our glosses / wanting in this world”—“Can you remember?”
Anyone!—“when we thought / the poets taught” even the rain?

After we died—That was it!—God left us in the dark.
And as we forgot the dark, we forgot even the rain.

Drought was over. Where was I? Drinks were on the house.
For mixers, my love, you’d poured—what?—even the rain.

Of this pear-shaped orange’s perfumed twist, I will say:
Extract Vermouth from the bergamot, even the rain.

How did the Enemy love you—with earth? air? and fire?
He held just one thing back till he got even: the rain.

This is God’s site for a new house of executions?
You swear by the Bible, Despot, even the rain?

After the bones—those flowers—this was found in the urn:
The lost river, ashes from the ghat, even the rain.

What was I to prophesy if not the end of the world?
A salt pillar for the lonely lot, even the rain.

How the air raged, desperate, streaming the earth with flames—
To help burn down my house, Fire sought even the rain.

He would raze the mountains, he would level the waves;
he would, to smooth his epic plot, even the rain.

New York belongs at daybreak to only me, just me—
To make this claim Memory’s brought even the rain.

They’ve found the knife that killed you, but whose prints are these?
No one has such small hands, Shahid, not even the rain.



January 15: "I'm Rooting for Everybody Black" —Issa Rae
by Courtney Lamar Charleston

Everybody Black is my hometown team. Everybody Black
dropped the hottest album of the year, easy. Everybody Black
is in this show, so I’m watching. Everybody Black is in this movie,
so I’m watching. Everybody Black wore it better, tell the truth.
Everybody Black’s new book was beautiful. How you don’t
know about Everybody Black?! Everybody Black mad
underrated. Everybody Black remind me of someone I know.
I love seeing Everybody Black succeed. I hope Everybody Black
get elected. Everybody Black deserves the promotion more than
anybody. I want Everybody Black to find somebody special.
Everybody Black is good peoples. Everybody Black been through
some things. Everybody Black don’t get the credit they’re due. I met
Everybody Black once and they were super chill and down-to-earth.
I believe in Everybody Black. There’s something about Everybody Black.


January 16: [the girls speak to each other via the common tongue]: Feather or a Rock
by Ellen Welcker

which do you love more
a feather or a rock

                                             to be good is to be ‘natural’
                                                            I mean to appear

          you are not good
you are holding up though

                                                            you are holding up
                                                you are getting a drink of water

                    you are eating
          you are concealing your identities

                                                           this is like a riotous wilderness
                                                                       but more like a persistent dread

                              your ferocity, almost mycological

                    I said mycological

                                                           oh god

                     oh my god

                                                           your laughter has undertones
                                                                                      of oak and berries

and martial law
          conceived, as it were, in a garden



January 17: from "feeld" 
by Jos Charles

         bieng tran is a unique kinde off organe / i am speeching

         materialie / i am speeching abot hereditie / a tran

         entres thru the hole / the hole glomes inn the linden / a

         tran entres eather lik a mothe / wile tran preceds esense

         / her forme is contingent on the feeld / the maner sits

         cis with inn a feeld / wee speeche inn 2 the eather / wile

         the mothe bloomes / the mothe bloomes inn the yuca



January 18: "In the Library"
by Jean Valentine

Light drifts across the ceiling
as if we are under water

—whoever would approach you
you changed the comer

You holding on to the front of my coat
with both hands, the last time I saw you

—I felt your death coming close
—the change in your red lips

You gave me your hand.
You pulled me out of the ground.



January 19: "There Ought to Be a Law Against Henry"
by Marianne Boruch

given his showing up to teach at the U
disheveled, jittery cigarette and cigarette and probably
the drink, losing the very way there
over river, river of all song, all American story
which starts way north of St. Paul quiet or undone
wandering south, not
enraged mostly, something stranger.
That’s one epic shard of John Berryman anyway.

Notorious. And par for the course in a classroom
destined, struck-by-lightning
in sacred retrospect, the kind those long-ago students
now can’t believe themselves
so accidentally chosen, grateful though one
probably claimed the poet absolutely
bonkers then, out of his tree toward the end,
so went the parlance. Wasn’t he
always late—Give them back, Weirdo!—with those
brilliant papers they eked out, small dim-lit
hours when a big fat beer would’ve
been nice. Really nice.
Fuck him, I hear that kid most definitely
blurting were he young right now
though the others—  From the get-go their
startle and reverence. But not even that malcontent
did the damning I can’t believe
they gave him tenure.

Here’s where I think something else, think
of course it’s the Dream Songs that rattled him until—
as grandparents used to say—he couldn’t
see straight. Like Dickinson’s bits of shock and light
did her in between naps and those letters to
some vague beloved unattainable. Or Plath, her
meticulous crushing fog. Maybe closer to Milton working
his blindness—literally blind rage, if you want
to talk rage—into pages soaked through with triumphant
failure and rhyme, always
that high orchestration, that alpha/omega big voice thing. 
And Satan, after all, as wise guy
and looming because for chrissake, Jack, get an interesting
character in there
! Someone must have
lobbed that right.

All along, Berryman: how those Dream Songs surely
loosened a bolt or a wheel in his orderly
scholar-head, must have come at him
like Michael the Archangel, 77 days of winged flash
searing him to genius, some kind of
whack-a-mole version. Maybe like Gabriel
cutting that starry celebrity deal
for a most dubious conception in the desert, near a fig tree,
no proper human mechanics required. At last
Berryman’s rage wasn’t rage
but sorrow turned back on itself. With teeth.

Henry my hero of crankiness and feigned indifference,
unspeakable industry, exhaustion
and grief, half funny-crazy, half who-knows-what-
that-line-means. A henry whole
universe of Henry, of
there ought to be a law against Henry—pause
and pause—Mister Bones: there is. 
Will be! Was! Not to say poetry’s
worth it or the most healthy fascination for the sane.
I’m just, I mean—is this love? 

There’s break, as in lucky, as in
shatter. There’s smitten and there’s smite.



January 20: "Sonnet 92 [Behold that Tree, in Autumn’s dim decay]
by Anna Seward

Behold that Tree, in Autumn’s dim decay,
   Stript by the frequent, chill, and eddying Wind;
   Where yet some yellow, lonely leaves we find
   Lingering and trembling on the naked spray,
Twenty, perchance, for millions whirl’d away!
   Emblem, alas! too just, of Humankind!
   Vain Man expects longevity, design’d
   For few indeed; and their protracted day
What is it worth that Wisdom does not scorn?
   The blasts of Sickness, Care, and Grief appal,
   That laid the Friends in dust, whose natal morn
Rose near their own;—and solemn is the call;—
   Yet, like those weak, deserted leaves forlorn,
   Shivering they cling to life, and fear to fall!