Prompts for RWJ, Prompt 203

Red Wolf Journal’s “Song of Myself” Spring/Summer 2016 edition released yesterday. That’s why song’s began to fade. Then of course a new song will come. It always does. They keep comin and comin till one dies. But to keep ’em from coming you can turn away. You muffle it. Then in a last gasp it dies. Write about loss of voice (losing heart) and whether it’ll ever come back in a poem.


losing my voice
to crows along the wall
haphazard choir warming up
to what was once your name

giving up all heart
to sheets wrestling on a pole
against the breeze
before falling to rest like a wave

leaving thought
between pages closing
in another book of dreams
memory has become

avowal’s true meaning
the two of us
that was once all of me
fading at last as I speak

–Cyril Wong


Prompts for RWJ, Prompt 202

Life is swell. I mean, to be alive, healthy and imbibing the sun. You love life don’t you? Every seven years you’re reinventing yourself and building a new foundation. Have you heard that one? And of course, Blake said, “Energy is eternal delight.” I guess what I’m driving at is that the love of life is at the core of our existence. There is such a thing as existential joy. The opposite is also true: existential despair. The heart knows both to be true. If you didn’t realise it yet, the theme of the Fall/Winter 2016/2017 issue of Red Wolf Journal is “The Heart Knows”. What does yours know?

It seemed the kind of life we wanted.
Wild strawberries and cream in the morning.
Sunlight in every room.
The two of us walking by the sea naked.

Some evenings, however, we found ourselves
Unsure of what comes next.
Like tragic actors in a theater on fire,
With birds circling over our heads,
The dark pines strangely still,
Each rock we stepped on bloodied by the sunset.

We were back on our terrace sipping wine.
Why always this hint of an unhappy ending?
Clouds of almost human appearance
Gathering on the horizon, but the rest lovely
With the air so mild and the sea untroubled.

The night suddenly upon us, a starless night.
You lighting a candle, carrying it naked
Into our bedroom and blowing it out quickly.
The dark pines and grasses strangely still.

Charles Simic, “Clouds Gathering”

Prompts for RWJ, Prompt 201

Temperance is defined as “moderation or voluntary self-restraint.” So is it possible for love to be like that? Isn’t true love meant to be chaste (pure) really? It is characterized as “the control over excess… through chastity, modesty, humility, prudence, self-regulation, forgiveness and mercy; each of these involves restraining an excess of some impulse, such as sexual desire, vanity, or anger.”

Pablo Neruda’s “Sonnet XVII” expresses something like it.

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:

where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep. ”

As one of the cardinal virtues, is temperance a characteristic of true love?
Think about it in a poem.

Prompts for RWJ, Prompt 200

Still on the subject of love. I confess, this is all part of a gestation for the Fall/Winter 2016/2017 issue. Anyways, this poem is kind of a response to Rumi’s poem, “The Ship Sunk In Love”.

Should Love’s heart rejoice unless I burn?
For my heart is Love’s dwelling.
If You will burn Your house, burn it, Love!
Who will say, ‘It’s not allowed’?
Burn this house thoroughly!
The lover’s house improves with fire.
From now on I will make burning my aim,
From now on I will make burning my aim,
for I am like the candle: burning only makes me brighter.
Abandon sleep tonight; traverse fro one night
the region of the sleepless.
Look upon these lovers who have become distraught
and like moths have died in union with the One Beloved.
Look upon this ship of God’s creatures
and see how it is sunk in Love.

Yea, the heart is where Love dwells. I heart. I love. Who do you heart? What do you heart? Those are important questions that you’ll have to answer in your poem. Answer it slant. To paraphrase Dylan Thomas, you are to move from “an overclothed blindness” to “a naked vision.”

Prompts for RWJ, Prompt 199

So is love a prayer? Is it ascetic? One often thinks the carnal part of it as being the deal maker but is it?

In Sung China,
two monks friends for sixty years
watched the geese pass.
Where are they going?
one tested the other, who couldn’t say.

That moment’s silence continues.

No one will study their friendship
in the koan-books of insight.
No one will remember their names.

I think of them sometimes,
standing, perplexed by sadness,
goose-down sewn into their quilted autumn robes.

Almost swallowed by the vastness of the mountains,
but not yet.

As the barely audible
geese are not yet swallowed;
as even we, my love, will not entirely be lost.

So what does it take to love and hold on to it? Perhaps let Jane Hirshfield’s poem, “The Heart’s Counting Knows Only One”, inspire you. Just don’t let your poem be clouded by the doe-eyed romantic in you. In case you missed the thread, I’m prompting for the theme of heart in the Fall/Winter 2015/2016 issue of Red Wolf Journal. If your poem is selected, it will appear anytime on our site from September 2016 onwards and submissions shall remain open till 28 February 2017. Read the submissions deadline here.

Prompts for RWJ, Prompt 198

So this dream that you have, is it real? Try to think for a moment and maybe ponder alongside Langston Hughes’s poem, “Dreams.”

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Is love frozen? Surely not. It’s the most alive thing. Let your poem explore it.