Prompts for Red Wolf Journal, Chapter 20


I’m in a pretty good mood. In terms of getting shit done, that is. Then I remembered, I ought to be writing something. A new poem will fall out from the sky if I prayed, or wished, or just sat down and write. I’m not really fussy. I just take whatever poem comes along. I know you guys like to agonize over a poem. I really don’t. Maybe it’s a gift. Maybe it’s just what it is. Maybe if you kept on writing, you’ll be richer for it? Hey I mean, real wealth isn’t money, you know that already, don’t you? It’s what you leave behind when you’re no longer here.

Prompt 111: I thought I’d write, and then I did. It’s strange, this writing feels like an adventure, not knowing where it’ll lead one to. If you gave up writing, then what? You’d miss out on an adventure, that’s what. And if you’re a writer you’d probably be using bits of material from your real life. But maybe just the essence of an event, or non-event, from the past. So let what remains from the past show up in your writing. I was also inspired by what Mark Strand said in a poem.

Time tells me what I am. I change and I am the same.
I empty myself of my life and my life remains.
Mark Strand, “The Remains”

Prompt 112: Well, there’s the picture from Magpie Tales. The lines in the first stanza (see my poem below) references Mark Strand’s poem “The Way It Is”, so I’m not making up the story. I stole it.

The original Mark Strand poem reads:

My neighbor’s wife comes home.
She walks into the living room,
takes off her clothes, her hair falls down her back.
She seems to wade
through long flat rivers of shade.
The soles of her feet are black.
She kisses her husband’s neck
and puts her hands inside his pants.

The poem is prefaced by a quote from Wallace Stevens: “The world is ugly/And the people are sad.” Bleak, right? Right. So make your poem about something seedy, then find the beauty in that seediness. That’s your prompt. It’ll be your final prompt for the Winter issue.

cesar santos

Painting by Cesar Santos via Magpie Tales


I read a couple of bleak poems that reeked
like cheap perfume. Mostly amorous crap.
Some guy who peeked through the wall saw
a woman take off her clothes, then kissed
her husband, then put her hand inside his
pants. They engaged in coitus, I think.

Me, I’m sitting by a bay window, looking at
the spreading branches–morning had broken
and the sunlight warmed my soles.
I’m slowly coming out of my shell
in the pine-scented air, portentous.
I combed out my voluminous hair.

The allure of woman, I think, lies in
some mystery–butt cheeks shifting under
maroon panties, for instance. She held up
a white blouse, like a veil. I thought about
God–where is he–nowhere here, not in
this seedy low-life, not this pageant.

Then I thought, tremulous, that search for
light must begin in darkness. Swirling
colors that begin to emerge into beauty.
Who held the brush but the woman–an
artist who is all body, and soul, when
in service of something so ineffable.


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