Photogenic Pain

Tilt your chin a little that way
so we can get the full shine
from the tears in your eyes.

Maybe you’re born with it?
Who cares. Hold the pose.

But we should check that background.
Life complicates the composition
and there is no time for color correction.

We only want the pain
that looks the prettiest on camera.
If you’re not picture perfect
get out of the way of the lens.

In Samantha's Shoes

Dinner’s in the fridge.
Don’t forget Tabitha’s bedtime story.
Make sure Darren Jr does his homework.

I’ve laced up my take-no-prisoners,
Valkyrie-on-a-broomstick, hell-yes
you’ll-hear-me-roar boots.

You smiled at me,
while I decided between
belladonna or datura -
made me want to reach
for damania instead.

I love these boots.
But I also love the slippers
we’ve made of our love -

the warm, mmm-so-cozy,
still-sturdy-after-so-many-years slippers.

But tonight, there are great, odiferous, pestilent
hydras to contain and a coven waiting for me to rise.
“The hydra doesn’t stand a chance,” you say
before we kiss and I fly.

Shoes and Books by Magaly Guerrero

Process notes: Belladonna and datura are poisonous plants while damania has a reputation for being an aphrodisiac. 

This poem was inspired by the prompt given at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: Poetry Through the Eyes of Carol Ann Duffey and the picture prompt given over at Friday Fictioneers

Returning the Favor

Don’t cry for the kid I was.
He was weak. An old man
had to teach that kid

his eyes wouldn’t be dried
by caring hands,
and his skin needed to be trained
to be harder than the fists that hit it.

I made my own lullabies
from the cracking of skulls,
the stomping of boots,
and cries for mercy.

I made lesser things
scream the pain I didn’t allow
myself to show, peaceful
until the next time anger howled

in my brain, demanding prey. 
(i can’t punch hard enough to save her)

Heaven gave me hell.
I’m just returning the favor. 

This poem was inspired by the prompt (I created!) over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: The Villain Speaks. I chose Turk, the Neo-Nazi character from Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. The poem also borrowed inspiration from a line spoken by the villain from one of my favorite animes, Nakago from Fushigi Yuugi ( "I'll have my revenge against the heaven which has only given me hell"), who, when I thought about it, had a fair bit in common with Turk, both being hurt children who grew up to do terrible things as a way to deal with their pain. This poem is also linked up to Poets United Poetry Pantry 349

Weeping With Joy

Among the boughs of the weeping birch
she discovered how far up she could climb
and which branches supported her
as she tried to touch a cloud.

Among the boughs of the weeping birch
he discovered how green looks at dawn and at dusk,
and which other colors dipped their toes
into the emerald sea he tried to capture on paper.

Under the boughs of the weeping birch
whose leaves form a curtain
giving those who love it sanctuary,
love unites, and births new loves too.

This is the sign I carry to rallies

This poem was inspired by the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: Out of Standard - Signs of the Times, where we were asked to create a poem including a slogan from a protest sign and write something not political.

Fine Indefinitely

I’ve made a sort of peace
with my chimera-like self.

Yes, I’ve envied
those whose lives were made
of uniform fabric, whose seams
always lined up with each other,

until I realized the beauty
in the patchwork of all my loves
stitched into my grinning soul.

I shall never be elegant.
I shall never neatly fit
into the costume of a role
not meant for me to play.
Those itch anyway.

Singing my praises to the beautiful blue
of a sky as high as I can imagine,
or murmuring prayers to the heart of a fire
that jumps and sparks in steps known only to itself,

I know that certainty sometimes equals confinement
and prefer to stay unconfined, undefined -
unless of course that’s what I desire
at that particular moment.

This poem is linked up to the Tuesday Platform over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads. Kerry asked us to contemplate if a song has ever saved our lives. I'm not sure about saving my life, but something about this song always comforts me and feels like home.

Mad Girls Musing

Charlotte: With somber mien
                 they exhort us to mistrust our eyes.
                 I will not subject myself to their "truth".
                 My eyes and spirit remain free.

Sylvia:     Free? For how long?
                They’ll force feed us "facts"
                until we vomit up blood.
                They’ll gouge our eyes with diversions
                until our souls are hulled.

Me:         There is no way out but through.
                Alone, it is impossible.
                I breathe in the strength
                of a world that rebels by living.
                I hope it is enough.

Song Choice: I Won't Back Down covered by Dawn Landes

This piece was inspired by the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: Twitter Me a Gothic Poem, where Magaly asked us to create a poem from tweets from two of the writers she has listed, and our own tweet back at them. I chose Charlotte Bronte and Sylvia Plath.

Delicately Bold

Demurring by day,
true night blooms are selective
binding up allure
into beguiling scents not hues,
beckoning night visitors.

Night Perfume (1950)
Kaoro Kawano
fair use

This poem was inspired by a prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: Kerry Says: Let's Paint A Picture, which asked us to create a Tanka based on the art of  Japanese print maker, Kaoro Kawano


Spaces between can be stretched, like shadows lengthening in the fading day. Strange magic tugs on atoms, bending and pulling objects until they vanish. She does not understand that it is herself she wishes to make gone when she says her words into the waiting air. She only speaks the words, “Make it go,” and mass, neither created nor destroyed, rearranges itself elsewhere. It is simpler to make things disappear instead of feelings.

Easy to banish
a bowl or a trinket, still
the shadows remain.

Photo by Jellico's Stationhouse

This story told in haibun came from a combination of the picture prompt given over at Friday Fictioneers and the prompt from Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads, Physics with Bjorn: Space time and the theory of special relativity

First Green

They look like hope-
those first buds swelling,
with all the possibilities
of a life happily started
under a warming April sky
fed by vanishing March snow.

And I still hoped,
even as my roots told me
the earth is still cold.
The sun is lying.

I cannot lie.
I felt the buds
push towards the sunlight,
and dreamed
of the first green uncurling,

only to have
the March wind screech,
pulling me from dreams
to see stillborn green

devoured by a shroud of ice.

This poem was inspired by the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads, Speaking For Spring's Stillborn Sprouts.

To My Dark Delight

To my dark delight I heard the susurrus
escape the restraint of your lips
before they alighted on me,
to reciprocate joy.

My bliss drunk eyes
can see no star to rival you
in the night sky, which bears reverent
witness to the adorations we bestow upon one another.

Of all the jewels found at night,
well after the sun kisses the moon
and the blushing evidence of their desire
turns from flushing scarlet and melts into indigo,

you, my love, shine brightest.  

This poem was inspired by A Dash of Sunny's Prompt Nights: It's Easy to Love the Light. Show Me Your Darkness and is linked to the Poetry Pantry 347 I was inspired by the sentence "Then to her dark delight there was a susurrus" from the book Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (although you should note the topic matter of my poem and the book are extremely different - very, very different) and the poem There Be None of Beauty's Daughters by Lord Byron.

Sadly, this is the last week of Prompt Nights, but Sanaa's wonderful energy will still be going strong over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads.


Fred flew towards the sound of her laughter. There was always food left whenever he heard it.

He swooped in through an open window of the boat, and landed on the table. Fred started gobbling the food down as his feet alighted, ignoring the gasping man.

“You bitch,” the man choked, before the arm reaching towards her shrank, growing feathers.

She strolled to the table. Fred stopped eating when she reached for a piece of bread. Instead he chased the new bird out. No matter how many she changed, he was still her first.  Fred flew to her waiting arm.

Photo by Fatima Fakier Deria

This short story was inspired by the photo prompt given by Friday Fictioneers. More flash fiction available at the link. 


The strangest thing
I’ve seen all week
is my reflection
in passing.

After pretending
I should know
the rules they have set,

after keeping worlds
trapped in my throat
underneath paper bag skin,

I see myself

smiling, like nothing
could be more natural

than bared teeth hidden
behind well rouged lips,

like it’s nothing.

This poem was inspired by the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: Word Count With Mama Zen 

Memory Pressed Into A Journal

Dear Diary,

I dreamed of her again, but this time she wasn’t screaming.

I wondered if the dreams would return once I saw the sold sign on the old Williams house yesterday. I touched the wrought iron fence to see if I could feel anything besides cold metal. Nothing.

But I did hear hellos from some workmen cleaning things up before the new owners move in. I said hello, talked about the weather. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do. And kept walking.

I know she’ll be back. I just need to find a way to keep her from screaming.

Song Choice: Creep by Radiohead

Gateway, photo by J Hardy Carroll

This poem was inspired by the picture prompt given over at Friday Fictioneers. To see what the other Fictioneers based on this picture, just follow the link.

Beyond the Boundaries

“Get back here!” she said.

Danny looked from his teacher, gripping the boundary rope around what she thought was a simple park exhibit, to the security guard briskly advancing towards him. It didn’t matter. He had made it to the communication cog first.

Danny stroked the spot he knew would activate it. “This is D’ynveh 5. I survived the Rylor expedition but am stranded. Send help!” His words were cut off by the guard pulling him away, but he saw the fine lines of energy light up on the cog’s surface, sending a beacon towards his home world. Danny smiled.

Photograph by Jennifer Pendergrass

This bit of Flash Fiction was inspired by the picture prompt given at Friday Fictioners

Unnatural Allies

They waited until the bruise colored sky settled into a uniformly inky color, dark enough to see the stars and dying moon clearly. Then, the rhythmic pecking began.

Every rooster and hen who was able gathered the needed ingredients, then placed them in the appropriate spots for the ritual. The high priest strutted around the perimeter of the circle. He grabbed each ingredient with his beak and dropped them into the bowl in the center. The beat of the pecking sped up as he worked, stopping completely when the last ingredient was added. Then he spoke.

“Oh infernal one, we have gathered herbs and spices pleasing to you to summon you here now. Defend us from the goblins who encroach upon the peace of our coops. Devour that which threatens our happiness!”

A wisp of smoke rose from the center of the bowl, growing larger and thicker, until it took the form of an old goateed man, clad in a crisp white suit, spectacles and a string tie.

“Well,” the demon said, “isn’t this just delicious?” He licked his lips once, then began to feed.

From the hill beyond the wall of the farm, the goblins heard the squawks of terror. They looked at each other, a few of them dropping the bags of seeds they had brought to offer the chickens, in the hopes of establishing an alliance with them.

One shook his head in disgust. “That’s just great. The chicken mages were our best hope for standing up against the trolls. What do we do now?”

The goblin elder looked at the now violently shaking coop. The wind brought the scent of the ritual’s herbs and spices to her wrinkled nose. She had a fairly good idea what had been conjured and why.

“We find other allies. Smarter ones,” she said, turning to walk back into the forest.

This story was inspired by the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: Title-Tale, where Magaly asked us to compose a story or poem based on a silly book title she had found. I chose Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop: And Other Practical Advice in Our Campaign Against the Fairy Kingdom, by Reginald Bakeley


Spring Morning

The sky tastes like a shortbread cookie
infused with that lavender feeling
of flying so high with the thermal surfing hawks.

I bite into it with my eyes
letting the crisp blue melt
from crumbly sweetness
to buttery delight
that seeps into my spirit.

Blue sky is the perfect accompaniment
to red-gold sun rising up
scented like a chai tea, peppery yet sweet.
The sun tastes like “Wake up!”
and sings “Are you ready to go?”

One last dunk of shortbread in tea,
one last glance at the morning,
and my curls bob the answer, “Yes”
as I set off on my day.

This poem was inspired by the prompt given (by me!) over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: Synesthesia. It is also linked to Poetry Pantry 344 at Poets United.  

Honored Guest

“Get that thing out of my garden before any of the guests see,” she said in a harsh whisper.

“But mom,” I started.

“Don’t. I’ve worked too hard to orchestrate this. You will remove that thing. You will come back down with your best manners. And you will get into Alexandre Academy.” She turned on her heel to rejoin her party.

I nudged Mephistopheles onto my arm. He’d probably be happier with the other insects in my room, the same way I’d be happier in public school.

“I can always get kicked out,” I told Mephistopheles. He nodded.    

Song Choice:  Reflection from Mulan

Yellow Bug, picture by Shaktiki Sharma

This flash fiction story was inspired by the picture prompt given at Friday Fictioners


The light came again, shrinking my circle of sanctuary. I shut my sun-scorched eyes and pressed my limbs into the safety of roots and earth, their presence steadying me.

You knew it would come again, and you know it will go again too, I whispered to myself, letting the pain ease before I opened my eyes again.

The light was still there, dimmer than it had been when I was pulled from my dark and tossed among these roots.

“You won’t last,” I hissed. “Night will come. I’ll see without pain, find better shelter and good hunting then. I’ll wait.”

Clouds Above the Trees, photo by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

This bit of flash fiction was inspired by the photo prompt given at Friday Fictioneers


Adi inhaled deeply from the mug of chamomile tea cradled in her hands. Its scent combined with the sigh of snowfall, was the perfect end to dinner.

“Penny for your thoughts, cuz?” Nina said.

“I haven’t had lomo saltado that good in ages.” Adi said, grinning.

“Stick around,” Nina replied, reclining on the couch they had used as a fort a decade ago. “There’s more where that came from.”

“Thank you, for dinner, for letting me stay so I don’t have to drive in this… and for having my back.”

“Someone had to teach that man a lesson. De nada.”

January Snowfall Nighttime, photo by Sarah Potter

This bit of flash fiction was inspired by the photo prompt given for Friday Fictioners hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and is also linked to A Dash of Sunny's Prompt Nights: Come Chase Oh Fleeting Thoughts of the Moment.


Titan spirit in a five foot frame,
she yelled “Adopt me!
We’d be great together.

America, you tossed salad,
I know about the hidden wilted brown bits,
the croutons made damp with tears,
and that the rich dressing can’t always cover up
some of the bad tastes left in your mouth.

But I also know how lucky I am
to be able to stand on your shores
and tell you, ‘I see you and still want to be here’.

I want to add my words to your song.
I want to sing with duende
about an imperfect place
still struggling towards a more perfect union.

I’ll love you in the struggle
dance my part in the center of the storm
and let my words send storms dancing on their own.
I’ll be the sazón in my part of the salad.
We’ll both be the better for it."

Song Choice: My Shot from the play Hamilton

Don't Give Up, Lady Liberty by Chris Blackway
Find Chris Blackway on Instagram @sea_black_prints
More of his art can be found at

orgullo = pride
duende = originally referring to a diminutive goblin or dwarf-like creature in folk stories, it has grown to refer to passionate and/or inspired performance of some artistic endeavor
sazón = it can be translated as seasoning, but there's a bit more to it than that.

This piece is the result of a combination of two prompts: Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads, Artistic Interpretation - Immigrant Portraits and A Dash of Sunny's Prompt Nights, Through the Eyes of a Friend. It is also linked to Poets United's Poetry Pantry #341.

History Report

Emma started playing with the poison ring on her right hand when she noticed her fidgeting had put several creases in her dress. She spent a lot of time last night picking out the perfect things to wear today and didn’t want anything to spoil them. 

She had chosen to arm herself with the pearl earrings Mother had given her after her first kill, her grandmother’s poison ring, her midnight blue dress with embroidered moon phases on the hem and of course a pin bearing the image of Synestra Nightjoy Dracul. The ache in her scalp from brushing and pulling her blonde hair into a razor sharp part before tying each side up into pigtails had finally abated, but the feeling like a hundred moths beating their wings against the inside of her head was still there.

“Miss DelSangre, it’s your turn,” Miss Garrote said, her smile pulling the bleached parchment of her skin even more tightly across her skull.

Gripping her papers, Emma walked up to the front of the class.  She looked at the picture of Torrance Dracul, mounted in the corner the teacher had claimed for her desk, took a deep breath, and started her presentation.

“My report is on Torrance Dracul, a famous prince from the noble house of Dracul. I know I’m supposed to tell you about all the important things he’s done. But that would be dumb. Besides the book Miss Garrote assigned me to read, I read a couple of others in my Mother’s library and have decided that Torrance Dracul is pretty much a disgrace to vampires everywhere.”

“Miss DelSangre,” her teacher said, glaring, with her pale skin pulling even more tautly, so that her veins stood out like the dark purple netting of a widow's mourning cap across her face.

Emma didn’t bother to glare back, but continued in an even louder voice. “It was his wife, Synestra Nightjoy Dracul, who deserves all of the credit for Torrance Dracul’s most famous deeds. The only thing he deserved was to have his blood drained out in front of a crowd.”

Emma’s delight at the gasps from her class was cut short as Miss Garrote dug her bony fingers into Emma’s arm and dragged her to the principal’s office. She shoved Emma onto the couch outside the office door, and slammed the door behind her as she swept in. The secretary, looked down at Emma from behind her desk, shook her head and went back to typing.

That small motion drained the last of her satisfaction in telling the truth about Synestra, and magnified one hundred times all the unease she had felt before getting up to speak. Not that the secretary had ever been especially nice to her, but she’d never just ignored her either. Her normally jolly principal even looked at Emma sternly when she finally opened her door to let Miss Garrote out and Emma in.

Emma barely remembered the rest of that evening at school, only that she said “yes” and “no” at the spots she knew she should say them until the principal was satisfied enough to let Emma sit on the couch outside her office again.  Eventually Bradford, her Grandmother’s butler, came to pick her up.
Emma clutched and twisted her skirt up in her hands on the ride home. Was Mother so angry that she didn’t want to come for her, so she called Grandmother to get her instead? Was Grandmother so angry she sent Bradford? Emma was afraid to ask, and Bradford didn’t volunteer any information on the drive back home. He silently let her into the house, and drove off again.

Emma ran directly to the great room, found the thickest, fluffiest, most blood red throw blanket there and cocooned herself up in it, not saying anything, until she heard her brother's footsteps walking up the hall.

“There you are,” Xander, face settling on what Emma recognized as his usual I-would-rather-be-tearing-throats-than-talking-to-you scowl. “Where were you? I was supposed to walk you home because Mother and Grandmother are at some sort of event until dinner.”

“I forgot,” Emma whispered. At Xander’s snort she said. “I got sent home from school early. Bradford had to pick me up.”

“You?” Xander arched a pale blonde eyebrow. “Are you sick or something? It’s not like you’d ever be sent home for getting in trouble.”

At that Emma started bawling, telling a flustered Xander about her plans to redeem Synestra Nightjoy Dracul’s good name and how they had gone so wrong.

“I don’t know if you’re brave or just crazy,” Xander said, putting his school bag down and sitting next to his sister. “Old Garrote would pour holy water on herself if the ghost of Torrance Dracul asked her to. Why would you do that in the middle of class?”

“To make sure everyone would hear me. Do you think Mother will be mad?” Emma said, curling further into the shelter of her blanket.

“She never got that mad at me and I’ve done way worse,” Xander said.

“Really?” She said, eyes widening. “But you never do anything wrong.”

“Shows what you know. Don’t you remember a bunch of times I was home before you and Mother said to let me be because I needed to dismember things on my own? It was because I got sent home, for way dumber things.”

“Was it because of a girl?”

“None of your business. Anyway, Torrance Dracul really was a mediocre vampire, just like you said. A rock shoved off the side of the mountain is a more inspired master of darkness than he was. But I would have left out the part about the blood draining though.” Xander paused a moment. “At least in front of Garrote.”

Emma hugged Xander who promptly squirmed away. “You really think Mother won’t be mad?” she said.

“Those were her books about Synestra that you read to write your paper weren’t they? I’ll bet you even get an extra helping of eyeballs at dinner.”


Emma belched as she got off the bus. Both Mother and Father had slid her an extra serving of eyeballs at dinner last night. Even Xander, who ate enough eyeballs and innards for a flock of vampires said he was too full to finish his portion and suggested Emma take it to school with her as a snack. She couldn’t help eating a couple on the bus.

She was trying to decide if she should eat one more or save them for lunch when a girl from her class, Vincenzia, came up to her.

“Emma, I liked what you said yesterday. About Synestra. Where did you get that pin with her on it?” Vincenzia said.

“I made it,” Emma said. “And if you’d like, I’ll make you one too.”

“I’d like one,” said another girl, and several other children started asking for one of their own as well.

“I’ll make enough for all of you,” Emma said, baring her fangs in a broad grin.

Song Choice: One Girl Revolution by Superchick

This short story was created for Holly's Horrorland's Vampire's Day Soiree. Go fly over and enjoy more vampiric delights at the main page.


Don’t recall seeing anyone
with their ear pressed up to it.
I’d have gathered the missus and little ones,
to see that and perhaps make a day of it.

If they had, they might have heard
our scurries and our scratches
as we go about our business on one side or another
but mostly inside (that’s our side).

Each side isn’t bad, as sides goes.
I guess I’d like a bit more sun on one side
and it’d be nice to find the leaves the missus likes,
(the lovely spotted ones with the scrumptious sap)
when I’m about my business on the other.

Of course, I’d be happy to tell anyone
if they’re going from one side to the other,
about the good things to find,
the best places to see.

No one ever asks me though.
They all have that look
like they’ve made up their mind
about what’s on the other side of the wall.

So I’ll just drink my tea,
share some leaves with the missus,
and play with the little ones

while I watch them go on their way. 

Worm from the movie Labyrinth 

This poem was inspired by the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: Walls. I had written something from the perspective of this little guy before, but the prompt reminded me of the walls of the labyrinth from the movie of the same name, and I felt I wanted to revisit something from his point of view again.

Imagination's Pilgrimage

Far from home,
through the flutter of my lashes
I imagine you are there.

My mind conjures your flesh,
your warmth,
the tilt of your head,
the mischief in your eyes,
the desire in your voice -

the way your breath
warms my already flushed skin -

and my moans echo
in an empty room,
and an emptier bed
only kept warm by the knowledge
you will enter again

I do not shirk
the responsibility I’ve been entrusted.
I will march through the darkest forests;

but I will never deny myself
thoughts of you,
that dance like foxfire through the days,
and burn like holy flame through my nights,
until I reclaim my place in your arms
without memory’s pale intercession. 

This poem was inspired by A Dash of Sunny's Prompt Nights: Battle of the Bards. Sanaa asked us to take inspiration from a list of classic poets. My choice was William Shakespeare and the following quote from his 27th sonnet:

But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:
For then my thoughts – from far where I abide –
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee...

This poem is also linked to the Tuesday Platform over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads and Poets United Poetry Pantry #342.


Once, twice, thrice, she shudders
as the weight of voices
corpulent with braggadocio
pummel the foundations
of a world she thought was steady.

She slumps, shaking her head
as the laughter grows,
mocking delicate souls
so easily bothered
by what needs not touch them.

Her tears fall.
“All the better,” she says
to prime the whetstone at her feet
she uses to sharpen her sword,
which will not be sheathed
until justice is done.

This poem was inspired by the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads, Looking Beyond the Obvious.

City of Sisters

It’s not known for its sentimentality.
This city
boos and beheads
faster than you can squeeze
mustard on a pretzel.

It’s strange to imagine
comfort under the armor
of steel and glass,
but it is real.

There is also steel in the smiles
of my sisters in arms,

as they say, “Yes, this is bad
but we will make it better.
Yes they aren’t listening,
but we can be louder.”

They scoff at admonitions
to be nice.
Nice? In this city?

Why be merely nice
when you can be ferocious in your kindness,
unapologetically baring your teeth
to protect those
with barely the strength to whimper?

Nice doesn’t go marching in the wintertime.
But Philadelphia ferocity
burns and ignites belief
to keep one warm in the middle of the storm.

The amazing Mimi Salazar and me at a Tuesdays With Toomey event
Photo taken by the equally amazing Kelly Vincent.

This poem was inspired by the prompt given over at A Dash of Sunny, Prompt Nights: Belief is the ignition switch that gets you off the launching pad, and also in no small way, by the ladies over at Tuesdays With Toomey. Thank you for helping me believe in humanity again. This is also linked with the Tuesday Platform over at Imaginary Gardens for Real Toads.

Tell Tale

I get nervous
as I see it drifting down my sleeve,
the tender tattered mess
I call my heart.

I call upon any artifice I can
in those moments,
when I fear all my dreaming and desires
are naked in an innocent display.

Every breath not filled with words
starts as perhaps, perhaps,
the most right and holy moment
to relieve myself of the burden,
and speaking
all the thoughts that gyre
underneath my flesh.

But moments pass,
and the sting of those wasted moments
is pitiless of the bruises already there
on my resigned heart
shoved hurriedly off my sleeve
and caged inside my ribs where it belongs.

Song Choice: If by Janet Jackson

This poem was inspired by the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads prompt: Get Listed!, where we were required to use several words in our poem (I used tatter, artifice, holy, gyre, wasted, and pitiless). There was also a bit of inspiration from A Dash of Sunny's Edgar Allen Poe prompt last week. I had started something for that but I wasn't quite happy with the original direction I took. For some reason this week's Toad's prompt, plus memories of being a college girl with a crush on this sweet guy I knew (spoiler alert: we've been married 21 years now) perked up my original idea to play around with ideas around the phrase "tell-tale heart" and this was created. It is also linked to Poetry Pantry #339 over at Poets United. 

First Generation Ghost

If you don’t see it, you don’t have to think about it.
Don’t think. That might remind you
of the world existing just outside the borders
of the manufactured frame you’ve been given.
The multi-hued world people like me live in.

Of course we’re still there,
inside your balance adjusted frame.
Otherworldly ghosts moving inside your scenes,
turning the smaller gears you’ve eschewed -
the gears that keep a pulse of a nation smooth.

Though my first cries were made on this soil,
I was reminded my place was with the ghosts.
“Be quiet, so you don’t scare people
With your arcane Latin tongue.”

So many hoops to jump through
to fit the definition of a woman of substance
yet feeling more insubstantial as I go through every one
to occupy a solid space in the world.

I’m too tired to jump them.
I reject being silent. I will tell my own stories.
Let people squirm when I write
the stories in my blood and sign my name
in letters larger than John Hancock’s.

The world may be unready for more ghost stories,
but I'm ready to tell them.

This poem was inspired by the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: On Poetry, Writing & Metaphor - Dreaming With Stacie. Stacie asked us to look around our environment and create a poem about something see/ hear/ smell using an extended metaphor. The Hamilton mix tape (as well as the Hamilton soundtrack) is on heavy rotation in my home and the song Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) had just come up in my music shuffle. The line "America's ghost writers" is still one of the most brilliant things I've ever heard, especially in the context of the song. It's hard for me not to feel inspired every time I hear it. So I didn't fight it and created this poem. 


I was taught to shun the mists.
It hides things
too indecent to walk
under the full light of the sun.

So I stood in the sunshine
ignoring the burning,
explaining away pain
because this is what I was taught to do.

Until I decided to be a poor student,
let mists soothe the suffering in my skin.  
And instead of monsters in the mist,
I found you.

Silken mist curls around us both
cocooning us, as our fingertips linger
on beloved lips we wish to keep
from saying the word goodbye.

Though goodbye is only temporary
until we find our way through the mists again.
As I wait, caught between the misty days,

I think it is the sun who ought to be ashamed.

Kissing in the Rain – Anja Bührer

This poem was created using the picture prompt given at MindLoveMisery's Menagerie: Photo Challenge #148 . It's also linked on the Tuesday Platform over at Imaginary Gardens for Real Toads

Leopard in a Cage

Paris, 1941

Etienne limped across the street, grateful for the bite of Paris’ winter wind gnawing on his bones. He could pass off his shivering to the weather, instead of the contents of his coat pocket if questioned by the approaching figures.  They always had questions. Luckily for Etienne, they never asked the right ones. Still, he gripped his pipe tighter.

“Eh, Etienne,” Klaus said, waving a swastika-banded arm at him. “Did you bring us what I asked for?”

“Oui, monsieur,” Etienne said. He handed him the food laden backpack that Klaus’ requested, along with the documents it was his job to deliver.

One of Klaus’s comrades scoffed as he took it. “A lame courier?”

“What do you expect? All the healthy men in Paris are working at the factories for us,” Klaus said, drawing laughter from his comrades. “Besides, Etienne has proven himself loyal, haven’t you?”

Etienne thought of Gustav in his Armée de l'Air uniform before answering, “Oui monsieur.”

“Here,” Klaus said, handing Etienne a small package. “Some tobacco for that pipe of yours, for loyal service.”

Etienne took it, thanking him before heading to his apartment a block away.

He had just reached the door, when Jeanette approached him. “Etienne, do you have chicory to spare?”

Etienne nodded, and spoke the code words. “Of course, as long as you don’t mind a bit of barley in it.”

She followed him in. As soon as the door was closed, Etienne pulled out his pipe, unscrewing it to reveal a hidden compartment and pulled out a small map, which Jeanette tucked into her thick socks. She took a small portion of chicory as well before she left.

Etienne hobbled to his bathroom mirror and stared. He’d have given anything to be the hero his brother was instead of this. He pulled out the tobacco Klaus gifted him and flushed it down the toilet. 

This flash fiction was inspired by the prompt given at Imaginary Gardens for Real Toads: Inside the Ink. Magaly asked us to create a short story or poem based around a quote from the last book we had read. My book was Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit. This story really could be said to be inspired by all of chapter eleven, On the Indirectness of Direct Action. But if I had to choose a line that encapsulated that chapter for me, it would be, "I don't know if the Evergreen kids have become great activists or died in a car crash on their way home, but I know that for them I was a leopard prompting a word or two of the poem of their own lives, as Bob was for me." 

A couple of notes about France during World War II: As you might imagine, food rationing was pretty severe, with the German soldiers commandeering a lot of food for themselves.  It was not uncommon for French citizens to be forced into labor to suit German purposes. Instead of coffee, people made do with chicory blended with toasted barely. Oh and in case you were wondering if pipes with secret compartments were a real thing, they absolutely were.

Wherever Flickers Your Unreal

Wherever flickers your unreal
I shall lay in delight.
I will allow my limbs to rest,
nestled into the contours of you.

Lover, I am tired,
and your arms are a haven
for a weary warrior
caught up in the far too real
glass shard world
eager to cut tender hearts into confetti
to be thrown at the feet of monsters.

Let me pause, here, in your unreal.
Let me drink from your oasis.
Replenish me fully
with the gentle delirium of your kiss.
And when I rise to fight again,
it will be with the memory of your love inside me.

This poem was inspired by the prompt over at Dash of Sunny's Prompt Nights: Tomorrow When the Sun Will Rise, Who Knows What the Tide May Bring. I was so captivated by the poem she posted as inspiration (Song by Muriel Rukeyser) that I borrowed a line from it for the title. This being the anniversary of David Bowie's death also inspired my words a bit today. It's also linked to Imaginary Gardens With Real Toad's Tuesday Platform.


I could stare
into the public
shoulders squared, 

or I could be
laughing and enjoying myself
in the company of good friends.

I could be redefining
what it means to make a stand,
and how to be a hero.

I could be boldly me -
be heroic the way I want to.

If you want a plastic toy
go ‘round the corner to the dollar store.

Ever square of jaw,
its eyes will never blink.
And you need never be disturbed
by its joyous laughter.

Song Choice: Kryptonite by Three Doors Down

This poem was inspired by a prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens at Real Toads: Escape to the Past (picture prompt)

A Claw By Any Other Name

Drag a gasping fish onto dry land,
but don’t delude yourself,
that it can learn to prefer air
when it needs water to breathe.

Do you feel satisfied scrutinizing
with puritan eyes each claw and fang,
dismissing those which fail
to meet your standards of sharpness

instead of using the time
to value the strength of each
and understand how they are made
for a purpose beyond your view?

You must enjoy standing alone then.

I will respect claw and fin, talon and tendon
of those who howl in common cause
to ensure the world we all love
will have no shortage of protectors.

This poem is linked to the Tuesday Platform over at Imaginary Gardens for Real Toads

Process Note: This poem was inspired by a conversation I was involved in, where a person claimed that unless someone protested in such a manner that risked death or imprisonment, then they may as well join the other side. Aside from being such a laughably black and white view of the world (and regular readers know how much I love that), it angered me. Would the speaker say the same thing to someone in a wheelchair who has concerns about their world? How about saying that to a single mother in sole support of her children? Are they going to step up and care for those children when their mother can't? Unless you know someone's story, don't judge their ability to be part of a cause.

Do the best you can, with whatever limits you have. I'm not going to judge you for "doing it wrong" but thank you for whatever you can contribute.