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Searching for: serenevannoy ; 2017 Challenge



I guess it's true
that we want what we do not have
I wanted a little sister,
and big brothers -- our two were younger,
and so close to each other
in a way I wished I could be with you

We were separated by five years --
no, I'll report this accurately, at least,
because I will lie in omission about other things --
we were separated by four years,
seven months,
eighteen days,
and your fearlessness

Our mother says I was afraid of my own shadow,
while you,
you were not afraid of anything
Not the belt,
nor the welts from the wooden spoon, the hairbrush,
and you laughed at the things I feared most:
our mother's fury,
our father's disappointment

They couldn't scare you into behaving
couldn't make you docile
couldn't keep the boys from climbing in your window
couldn't keep you from smelling like smoke
and something else (sweet and sticky) I couldn't identify

When I was ten, and you fifteen
they sent you away
so our father wouldn't be punished
for your indiscretions
They didn't tell us why
I was in my forties before I got the whole story
from a father who still feels betrayed by you
as you do by him

In later years, I had a hard time believing
that you had been gone for a year,
because I don't remember the lack of you

We do not want what we have

You returned with stories -- of Philadelphia,
where our aunt's sisterly love couldn't keep her
from sending you south to Carolina,
to a cousin who had more love,
more youthful energy,
more willingness to try to change you

We want what we do not have

In wanting, there is reproach
You wanted stability
and unending love
Even today, I cannot believe you wanted
Even after you are gone from our family,
torn (sure, by yourself, sure, we can say that, sure)
from your children

You do not want what you have

People can tell me you chose this
and I did the best I could
and adults have to make their own decisions
and they're not (exactly) wrong

So I gaze into the middle distance
and the dust floats up
and away

and I want
what I do not have

(384 words)

Robert, I like yours. I think most of us have been there.

Here's mine:

Not Today

You will drive all night to find what you have missed
but not today

Today, you will do the things they say you should
and do them cheerfully
and long for that day

when you can walk away
(also cheerfully)
and allow entropy to be what it is

You will quit this place
and its people
who think they need you
You will muscle a soft, heavyladen suitcase
into the trunk of your too-old car
and drive west
and west
and west

But not today

(101 words)

This is wonderful.

(3 words)

The enjambment here is really skillful. Good work!

(8 words)


(1 words)

Quit of Love

She says she is over it; well quit of love,
and the look on her face tells you she believes it,
as her eyes narrow and blotches of angry red start
in an odd place below her cheekbones.
She is young, much younger than you,
and your impulse is to set her straight, topple her upright,
shake this upside-down cynicism from her youthful mind.
Instead, you listen,
and you hold her,
and you realize in looking back
to that first time
the one that made you cry out and discard love
as a concept,
as an option,
that you weren't young and foolish.
You were young and right.
He lied, or was it you?
It was so long ago,
but you remember giving up,
remember being quit of love.
You gave up on love then,
on that kind of love, anyway,
the kind that never worries it will end,
the kind that is unselfconscious and free,
and you never got it back.
You hold her, rocking slightly,
and drink in her wisdom,
hoping there's still hope
for both of you.

(183 words)

Nice! I like the rhythm of it.

(7 words)

That's an Elie Wiesel quote: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Elie_Wiesel

(6 words)

Just Begin

It's starting again
that inkling I get
that this is the time

to start again. We met,
we met, and I turned
away. I wish I could
shake myself,
wish I could

begin again
my calf, my ankle
turn the right direction
that is not away.

This time,
I swear,
I swear.

This time.

(56 words)

I decided to kind of have fun with this one.


that first morning,
the sun was like a disc
of [Cu] and
optimism reigned.

he talked over her, it was true,
but she ignored it
because not being alone
is like [He],
making low voices


and because roses and
[Au] bought cliche

as time [B]
and sunrises tarnished,
turned the color of
rusted [Fe]

he brought her [Ag]
because, he said,
[Au] was too costly;
told her she needed
to watch her [Na]
because she was getting

he still talks over her,
and she realizes
too late
what a sign that was,
what a red flag warning.

she wishes she had a [Ni]
for every time she almost

trusted herself.

Here it is with the words instead:


That first morning,
the sun was like a disc
of (copper) and
optimism reigned

He talked over her, it was true,
but she ignored it
because not being alone
is like (helium)
making low voices


and because roses and
(gold) brought cliche

As time (bore on/boron)
and sunrises tarnished,
turned the color of
rusted (iron)

he brought her (silver)
because, he said,
(gold) was too costly;
told her she needed
to watch her (sodium)
because she was getting

He still talks over her,
and she realizes
too late
what a sign that was,
what a red flag warning.

She wishes she had a (nickel)
for every time she almost

trusted herself.

(250 words)

Nice one!

(2 words)

That's lovely.

(2 words)

Thanks, all!

(2 words)

Catching up on the few that I've missed.


I live for it,
the lilt at the end,
the tonic lift,
when the music rises,
and your voice catches,
crafting what would be a sob,
if you were talking,
and not singing life
into me.

(45 words)


Lift off
head north
or not -- south is great
Let the wind raise your wings
and loft you elsewhere

Send off
get gone
get long, long gone,
and we will
toast you,
make sure you go

Take off
fly from me
even though
I ache
from wishing
I wanted you

to stay

(54 words)

Silly ode to my PAD shame

I said I'd write one every day
A poem per April day, but hey,
Life sometimes sticks its problems in,
And entropy decides to win

I stayed real strong from one to five
On ten, I gasped and came alive-
I missed six, seven, eight, and nine!
Then ten was mediocre. Fine!

I skipped eleven in a fit of pique
And here is twelve, a choice, mid-week
To brush the dust off of my knees
And keep on writing poetries

(86 words)

Lovely. The thumb is a great image.

(7 words)

I really like your selfie poem, Robert! It was nice to see you reading, too

Here's my family poem. I stole your title to put in my poem.

We didn't separate laundry that day,
even though it was Thursday,
laundry day,
didn't make a pile
on the living-room floor -- brights, darks,
a whole pile for just your gray scrubs and matching socks.
You're a doctor, and you couldn't stop this. I'm a mother,
and I couldn't, either.
The silence between us was that space between metronome clicks,
when you're waiting for time to tell you its rhythm
and again

She'd been music to us for so long,
(not. long. enough.)
the beat woven through
so many Thursday mornings,
but not like this one, slow and afraid to move forward
to the next beat,
paper lunchsacks,
Dora-the-Explorer backpacks,
or Spidey,
when she was too big for baby things.

We drove to the cemetery still waiting for the click,
waiting for time to tell us
how to move to the next second

(175 words)

This is wonderful. I especially love the kitten image and the gabardine and the last few lines.

(17 words)

My poem didn't post, probably because of the word "s.e.x." so I'm going to write it that way, but it's written the regular way in my version. [?] Also, "b*tch" for the obvious other word.

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

Does it work?
Hanging out of the passenger side
of a car you could never afford,
licking the air with a tongue of salacious chatter,
beckoning to them,
women you've never met,
to come to you and

and what?

Has it ever happened?
Has there once, in all the history of everything,
been a young woman,
fresh-faced, lips plump,
head full of nascent dreams
of success and softness and the world her oyster,
has that woman, that person you depersonify,
ever thrown her hands up
in relief,
rushed to the plaintive beckon of the unemployed demigod,
the cat who clearly had an eye for beauty,
hopped into his best friend's ride,
wrapped her legs around his waist,
wet already with longing for him,
inarticulate with need
(because who wants a hot b*tch who talks too much, amirite?)
and ridden away with him into s.e.x-soaked
eternal bliss?

Has that ever.


(190 words)

One Time

She only came one time,
his nurse,
the woman who
was supposed to be there
for as many weeks as it took
for the cancer to lay him to rest,
to take over his cells wholesale,
where they'd been inching forward,
in the dark, unseen,
because he'd only gone one time,
to the young doctor
with no stubble and no understanding
of what it's like to be
and proud
and stubborn.
After the nurse left that one time,
we settled in, you and I,
at our father's bedside
as we were meant to be,
ready for the long haul,
but not ready for this,
for how fast it went.
We had come with bags full of snacks,
and puzzles,
James Patterson novels,
supplies for a queer sort of campout
cut short.
Did he wait for the nurse to leave,
or was it chance that gave us
only an hour and a half,
when we were meant to have weeks
to formulate
that good good-bye?

Only years later
did we confess to each other
that we felt

so cheated.

(182 words)

It's in the System

It isn't in your head,
in your whip-smart, ambitious brain,
that thinks of things
no one's thought before

It isn't in your curls,
that bounce like fabric springs
around your face,
dark on dark like a new-moon night

It isn't, as you read once,
on a report card from a teacher
who disliked you on sight,
that you don't apply yourself

There is nothing within you
about you
of you
that has created this barrier
this No

It is built in.

It's in the manager who rails against Affirmative Action,
then hires his cousin's son, the one who
smokes weed in the breakroom and
takes credit for your work.

It's in the rules about "professional dress"
that assume that your hair,
your skin,
your curves,
are beneath some standard
that was created to exclude you.

It's in the system
that berates you for not fitting in
when it makes the rules
for who fits.

I don't know how to fix this,
but I needed to say,
I see you
and your Black Girl Magic
and the system that looks past you,
through you,
and I set myself today
to the task
of dismantling it.

(198 words)

This is touching and beautiful.

(5 words)

their feet make soulful music
themselves, a swishing
and slapping on the wood floor

the watchers don't hear
the music inside of them:
the dancers, their feet

it's automatic
the returning to rhythm
the tap-dance of life

live music, dancers,
syncopated Chaine turns
it all leads to this

(48 words)

No title for this one yet. I welcome suggestions.

She picks through the oranges on the display,
firm, mostly, bright with some greenish spots
and thinks of her father, who used to joke
that he was so old, he didn't buy green bananas,
and the ache is there again. It is a contiguous
hurting, threaded through her father's life,
and the others'. They are all of a piece in her,
and she stops for a moment to ponder how
selfish death makes her, how each one's
passing became less about the one who passed,
and more about her loss, about the palmprint
on the refrigerator, the orchid in winter,
the deep, dark field long fallow,
the oranges.

(117 words)

Gosh, thanks, and I've titled it "Oranges" now.

(8 words)

It was twenty-five years ago,
and you grew out of it,
that thing where you literally
held your breath,
turned blue,
like the brats in the comic strips.
Now I can tell it like it's
no big deal,
but so many times -- and I don't
tell you this -- I look at you and
see your infant face, cyanotic, greyish,
remember screaming at you,
"Breathe, goddammit!"
which you eventually did,
and then cried,
and then slept,
breathing evenly,
like you hadn't just
threatened to turn my life
After, I recall
slumping in the corner of
your sh*tty apartment,
shaking, my back against the cold,
white wall,
calling my mother
to come and watch you,
take you out of my arms,
because I was afraid
that my touch
wouldn't be enough.

(133 words)

My heart breaks for us both. The child in this poem has struggled with mental illness, too, and that makes me wonder if it's all related. He's a lot better now, though. So glad we have the love to sustain our families.

(42 words)

It's a chore, this loving,
sometimes, it is,
with doctor visits and late-night
phone calls that go too long
as you perseverate,
dream up catastrophe,
It's an admixture
of onerous tasks,
of work,
of things I'd rather not have to do,
and yet

when your voice sounds on the line,
or that ping on my cellphone
or I see your face, lined with years
of laughing with me as we laugh at ourselves,
my heart thinks I'm young again
and the tasks
are nothing,
and I

(92 words)

Thanks so much!

(3 words)

Life Preserver

I haven't the time to spend on your
wisp of hope,
your blue-green promise of calmer waters
I need safety now
and your life preserver
is nowhere to be found

(32 words)

This is great. And I'm an atheist. [?]

(8 words)

Aww. Good job turning an object into a true expression of emotion.

(12 words)

Thank you!

(2 words)

I expected your word
to mean something true,
and for you to stay,
and, too, I expected
to know the landscape of us,
long into dotage,
long after my young legs
and yours first lay,
on a bed of ease.
I expected things
believed you,
as my heart beats
too fast, too fast,
and the veins in my neck
ache with every pulsebeat,
I remember the fable
of the wolf and the crane
and am surprised again
that I expected

(85 words)

Last Time

Last time, it was easier,
the losing, the letting go,
and they told me it would get
better with time,
that I would get used to being
This time, it is harder,
knowing that time
isn't kind to me,
knowing that this time
might be
the last time.

(53 words)

for so many
who bump up against death,
who see the substance
where most only get shadow, hint,
for so many of those
something shifts.

when they get near to death,
the lens unclouds
a little,
and they see clearly
they know things now
they cling now,
like a three-year-old
to her father's leg
when he is
almost gone,
to the stories they were told,
to the One whose Eye
is on the sparrow,
to faith.

for me, seeing death,
knowing that the blood on the floor,
in an ever-increasing pool,
was probably the end of it,
of me,
that this life,
so short,
was probably spilling me out
for good,
didn't clear things up,
even though i had a vision,
God or an angel,
i don't know,
but warm, protecting,
and hovering above the floor,
keeping me safe,
or so it seemed to me.

there are moments when you're
all alone,
and you realize
you have to think for yourself,
and that this
is your one chance,
to use death to your advantage,
to live without fear,
to stop assuming
there is anything in this life
like clarity.

after that night
when i lay in my own sticky blood
on a convenience-store floor,
after the stranger tried to kill me,
after i told God i was ready to go,
if He wanted to take me,
things didn't become clearer;
they got muddied.

after this
i was,
as you can imagine,
fascinated by my brush with death,
by the thought that God
had taken the time
to walk me through it,
to calm my fear.
so i did some research,
found out that for most people,
the near-death visions
as they had for me,
imagery from their own
religious tradition,
the gods they have been taught,
and even more,
that many of these folks,
weren't in danger of dying,
but only thought they were.
oh, dopamine, how you mess with us,
oh, oxygen, you trickster.
we can create these things
in a sleep lab,
with electrodes,
with chemicals,
without death.

so maybe
we create the rest, too.

and that is what
the end of faith

looks like.

(362 words)

This is gorgeous, truly.

(4 words)

Ooh, I really like this.

(5 words)

(1 words)

Thank you for this. I need to ponder it for a bit.

(12 words)

Thank you all!

(3 words)

Don't write me a love poem,
she said,
You're not twelve, and
I'm not the girl in the pixie cut
in algebra class
any more.
Write to me about real things:
about kissing in bed without
brushing our teeth first,
or how you stayed up all night
because I was afraid and
my heart raced and
my chest hurt and

Write to me about that time
when we rolled over together,
in our too-small bed,
and wound up on the floor,
and both thought
This is hilarious
and both thought
We find the same things hilarious

If you must write about us,
tell the truth.
Tell about how good it is to ignore each other
and be in our own little worlds for hours
and not fight about it

Tell about how you still think my tiny sneezes are cute,
and how over the years, I'm less irritated by poop jokes,
because you're hilarious and so sometimes they are, too.

But don't write about love.
Love is sticky like syrup,
all over poetry like the goop that stays
when you peel off the pricetag.

Write life. Write about how passion turns into rhythm,
about how no one can imagine us without each other,
even us.

(205 words)

Just beautiful!

(2 words)

Wow, this is so good. Thank you.

(7 words)

Happy anniversary, Sally and Walt!

(5 words)

Very skillful. Good job!

(4 words)


(1 words)


My ex and I (we're both fat) used to make a silly routine out of this. "Hey, sweetie, do these pants make my butt look big?" "No, baby, your fat butt makes your butt look big." "Okey-dokey, thanks!"

(39 words)

A sonnet for the regretful

You do not need to wail and gnash your teeth,
and rip your clothes to show that you would take
it back. The healing comes from underneath,
below the wounds you didn't mean to make.

A mesh of fibrin forms a scab in place,
protects the flesh so time can do the rest --
and not just time, but in the knitting phase,
the cells rush forth to do what they do best.

You've told the one you love you didn't want
to cause the pain that new wounds always bring,
but new wounds don't stay new, and loved ones don't
(not usually) leave over one hurtful thing.

So rest, and let the healing do its work,
And going forward, be less of a jerk.

(130 words)

They took a walk most evenings,
long, rambling,
down Shattuck, up Strawberry Creek,
to Upper Sproul, sometimes
down Telegraph a ways,
with head shops and hipster record stores
and that great Chinese bakery,
where you could crack open a baked bun
and find green onions,
or pork floss,
or maybe a hot dog and some corn.

Their first day in Berkeley had been magical,
the way it was supposed to be:
they stepped off the BART train and right into
the Saturday market,
drum circle pounding,
brown-skinned women festooned with fringe and
floating in a cloud of sticky-sweet smoke,
up to heaven.
Berkeley was being Berkeley, and it seduced them,
and even after ten years in this no-longer-new place,
after floods and pests and that time they found
in their Oakland driveway,
they walked together, in daylight or dark,

(143 words)

She dabbles in vanilla,
literally, I mean,
places her hands in a pool of the
carameled, boozy mixture,
lets it soak in.
The alcohol the beans were soaked in
doesn't do her hands any favors,
drying them out a bit,
making them thirst for lotion,
and that's vanilla-scented, too,
because you left that day
before she had a chance to tell you,
there was vanilla cake,
all for you,
an apology,
and now she can't let the vanilla scent leave,
or you might never
come back.

(86 words)

Come sit with me and make the world our own,
for joy is metered out to everyone;
to everyone, but not an equal share.
An equal share would mean the world was fair.

(33 words)

The Reckoning

Mother was fierce,
fierce in love and in anger,
which one each day a mystery,
until the shoe, the belt, the wooden spoon.
We became masters of nuance,
adept at being how she wanted us to be,
at least when she could see us,
but my big mouth got me in trouble,
as it still does,
and I remember the beatings,
I still do

You were soft, mellow,
ask-your-mother, listen-to-your-mother,
wanna play a board game?
So when you left her, I dug in my heels,
endured her sorrow,
chose to go with you.

How could I have known
I would cry for her at night?
Who could have warned me that your mellowness
was apathy,
that you didn't have fierceness in you,
not fierce anger, and not fierce love.

So there we were, faced off in front of the dishwasher.
I knew how to play Mom: put off the chore until she got
frustrated, angry, and did it herself.
You didn't know the rules,
didn't know that it was your job to use your hot blood
to galvanize my stubborn steel.
You wanted me to do the dishes, and you were going to
stand there
until I did them.
And my eyes,

my eyes were opened.

(209 words)


(1 words)

This is so great!! [?]

(5 words)