May is the languor
following April’s cruelties,
yielding up the flowers
Constance Chatterley
wove around the base
of the maypole
that drew her dancing feet.

May lends itself well
to dancing feet
sustaining bodies
willing to fall
into the rhythms
dictated by the ancient dance
around the maypole.

Our gyrations
are limited only
by lengths of silken ribbons
as we wind in and out.
Until at last we are spent,
my voice just a whisper,
as I rest besides you
sighing your name.

Summer Sunflower by Christine Greenwood Strieb. 
Original art at her Etsy store, Dragonfeather Art Work.

This poem was inspired by the prompt given by Magaly Guerrero for Dark Poetry for the Cruelest Month: Yesterday Never Dies, which told me to look at the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens for Real Toads: Poetizing the Maypole

Poetry Tapas

While I haven't been writing a full length poem every day for NaPoWriMo, I have been busy with my Wicked Little Grooves micropetry on Instagram and Facebook. Some of them are up on Pintrest (I'll add the rest soon) but here a few of them. I'm also linking up to dVerse's Open Link Night. This was a fun and challenging experiment for the month of April. While I probably won't keep up the crazy pace, I think I'd like to keep writing more of these, say one a week. I'm open to musical suggestions if you'd like to give them!

A civilized veneer
makes poor armor.
Those who rely upon it
soon become thralls.

The scent of his latest culinary exploit
is only half as tempting as he.
I'm sure breakfast will taste
just as good cold.

Our fingers trace sigils onto each other’s’ skin –
the culmination of the quixotic magic
that brought us to this moment.

(Song Inspiration: Angels by The XX)

Am I afraid? Yes.
Don’t laugh. I like my order.
And what disrupts an ordered life 
more than love?

(Song Inspiration: Hounds of Love by Kate Bush)

She grasps at phantoms 
comprised of society’s expectations
and wonders why she weeps.

(Song Inspiration: Ripples by Genesis)

Lament of a Shami-Chōrō

It is cold up here on this pedestal.
And the up-lighting is bothersome.
To avoid being blinded,
I must look out
at the rest of this room,
where sometimes, if I am lucky,
I see and hear the music
I love being played.

I was happier in the attic.
It was dusty,
but I was among family.

A karakasa-kozō
would tell us
how he saved an army
by keeping battle plans dry.
On full moons the chōchin-obake
would describe every festival he lit up:
the sounds of the children,
the smells of the food,
the colors of the kimonos.

And I would tell stories
of the accomplished geisha,
incomparable in music, writing, and dance,
who, assisted by me,
won the hearts of all who heard us play.
Even kami stopped to notice
when we sang.

Then the attic was opened.
I found myself here,
revered but untouched,
watching instruments too new
to have a wit of their own,
played mostly by novices.

Oh, some show promise.
But all are afraid to touch me.
A relic’s only purpose is to decorate,
even when they’d prefer
to risk being broken
over not being played.

Shamichouro-Kotofurunushi-Biwabokuboku illustration by Matt Meyer
curator of one of the most informative and beautiful sites devoted to yokai lore, 
as well as author of two amazing books, The Night Parade of  One Hundred Demons: a field guide to Japanese Yokai
and  The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits: an Encyclopedia of Mononoke and Magic.
(I did the biggest happy dance when he said I could use this picture; I'm a long time fan.)

Process Notes: Whew! This is my second attempt at combining two prompts. The first one was given by Magaly Guerrero with her Dark Poetry for the Cruelest Month prompt: Poetizing Japanese Folklore. The second one was entirely my fault, as it was my first prompt as part of Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: The Way of Tea (select a poem by Sen Rikyu to base a new poem around. I chose "Once a flower’s season has passed, it should not be brought in from another location for display in the tearoom."

Japanese terms: 

The shami-chōrō, karakasa-kozō and chōchin-obake are all types of creatures collectively known as tsukumogamiold things that have a spirit animating them or have gained sentience through the passage of time. A shami-chōrō is a sentient shamisen (3 stringed Japanese musical instrument) that wishes to be played by its old master again. A karakasa-kozō is  an old oiled umbrella. A chōchin-obake is an old paper lantern.

The Ballad of Sancho Panza

Oh he’s mad no question.
I see those are windmills,
too big to fall
to such an elderly arm.

Yet again, I wonder
why I am out here,
instead of in my quiet hovel.

I could seek other employ.
But my beard and bottom remind me
of the time I left
the Lord of La Mancha’s side.

The Duke and Duchess
may not be serious
about letting me rule,
but at least they were fair
and I knew when to expect my beatings.

Things always fall in order
when one knows one’s place.
There’s comfort in routine.
Still I’d rather give honest madness a chance.

The windmills have thrown up
a small gale, knocking his helm off.
Wild-haired and wide-eyed,
he calls for his lance.
I do not hesitate.
“Sí Don Quixote, here it is.”

The Lord of La Mancha
charges into the fray.
For a moment,
I thought I saw the windmills tremble.

Song Choice: I, Don Quixote 

This song is part of Imaginary Gardens With Real Toad's Tuesday Platform

The Moral of the Story

They rose from the waves to welcome her home.
not expecting to see their sister jump,
stay aloft on the air for a moment,
and then vanish into the foam
formed when her body hit the sea.

The sea princesses came home
wailing for their lost sister,
with their grandmother joining them in grief.
Together their cries rose up out of the sea
bubbling up as a moan,
reverberating to the human lands.

The unease it inspired would have pleased the merfolk,
for as much as the kingdom loved its lost little pearl
they now despised fickle humankind,
who did not notice bloody feet,
or the wincing covered by smiles.

Hurt is a hardening agent,
for resolve,
for strength,
or sometimes for minds,
and hearts.

Trips to the surface were suspect
after the princess’s sad end.
What true merperson would allow
themselves to be enthralled
by such barbaric creatures?
So everyone said in the light of day.
Though in moonlight,
a mermaid would polish her collection
of hairpins and tea kettles,
while another would sing human songs in her room.
One merman would analyze
the knots and weaving of mysterious human fabric,
while another would swim to a village
and to repeat his vow to his sweetheart
that the troubles below
would not stop him from seeing her.

Some succeeded in keeping their hearts hidden.
Some did not.
Sometimes the price was a broken tea kettle.
Sometimes it was more,
all for the non-malicious vapidity of a boy,
and shortsighted folly of a girl.   

Invisible Pain by Kathy Crabbe
Follow Kathy's artistic adventures at her blog.

This poem was inspired by Magaly Guerrero's prompt given for Dark Poetry for the Cruelest Month: Beyond the Happily Ever After. 

Nightingale Hours

Wildness floats around you,
wolf wicked,
but I’m no little girl
to be dandelion led.

I am a pebble-strewer,
hoping you’d find your way
to my hidden home.

Delight-whisperer, come
find me quick
amid the mysteries
of the sentinel forest.

Bring your power
midnight mage.
I’ve plenty of my own.
Bring your passion
moon brigand,

and see that I
am just as adept at stealing
kisses and nightingale hours
as you are.

Dream by Shelle Kennedy
See more of her wonderful art on her blog, Sunshine Shelle.

This poem was inspired by the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: Kenning and is linked to Poet's United: Poetry Pantry #340

Savage Children

My offspring are cruel.
No, not the ones drawing blood to eat.
They only do as they must;
no different from the ones
eating plants, sunshine or the already dead.

Addiction is monstrous to see in ones you love.
Addiction causes them to forget and abuse family.
To power, to gold, to oil,
to dollars, to euros, to yuans –
it doesn’t matter what the addiction is.
They don’t need it, but they crave it,
willing to kill or let others die 
for just another injection.

I have done what I could,
sent reminders of what is at stake
should they continue on like this.
I fear I shall bury them all, and soon,
with my tears all used up
for the ones they took with them,
leaving me only with rage. 
At least my children who feed on death
will have full bellies then.

Song Choice: Sober by Pink

See more of her wonderful work on her blog and Etsy store of the same name.

Singing in the Heart of the Labyrinth

He says the sound of my voice
striking fear into mortals
are the loveliest shrieks he’s heard,
worthy of slaying kings.

He’s built out a special part of his labyrinth,
to make the acoustics perfect for my practice.
I spend my mornings serenading him
while he plots the doom of hapless adventurers.

Some mornings my throat is sore;
then he brings me tea and honey.
Some mornings concocting traps vexes him;
then I bring him coffee,
rubbing his head and horns,
offering my ideas for mayhem.

Certainly, a few of his ways are strange.
I still am getting used to his eating customs.
But I know wherever my minotaur is
in these winding paths,
that is the heart of the labyrinth to me.

This cute Highland Minotaur sculpture was made by Kelsey Wailes.
See more of her whimsical creations (including some fun geek culture stuff) 
at her store on Etsy, Eat Toast

This poem was created in response to the prompt given by Magaly Guerrero's Dark Poetry for the Cruelest Month: Legendary Beings In Love.

Patient (Eight) Zero (Eight)

Sadism has many faces,
some leather clad, some bare.
But there is a deviation
that has nothing to do with sight,
but sound.

How does it start?
Does it begin with a viewing
of Ricardo Montalban tormenting
a horror struck Walter Koenig?
Is it related to a love 
of snarky robots relishing truly awful cinema
but twisted to suit aural depravity?

But fiends of which I speak
are not reliant on luckless spacemen.
Oh no. It is far simpler
to find the right worm,
squirming on the Top 40
or wriggling on a playlist,
into unsuspecting ears,
then laugh at the victim’s distress.

Auricular Dominitis,
the uncontrollable desire to implant earworms,
is real.

Perhaps we can pity those afflicted,
because they must have had an earworm first
to even think of such horrors 
and be driven to the resultant cruelty.
As the first patient, they simply desire
company in their agony.
At least, that’s what I tell myself.

This brass egg from Eliora looks far too cute for earworms
but I couldn't help but want to show it off. 

Song Choice: Macarena by Los Del Rio (Yes, I am chuckling evilly now. Why do you ask?)  

This poem was prompted by Magaly Guerrero's Dark Poetry for the Cruelest Month 2016: Fictitious Affliction Symptoms

Peculiar Like A Fox

Peculiar? I suppose
a fish describing
how glorious the sun looks
refracted overhead
while he breathes
the water he moves in
sounds peculiar to a sparrow.

And the fish could not
contemplate anything more peculiar
than breathing and loving
in the very thing that kills him.

I like the feel of the earth
under my paws,
or my feet.
I like the feel of silk on skin,
but take pride in my tails.

Sometimes I am like the moon,
fair, and gracefully curved.
Sometimes I am like the sun,
bold, and flushed with my own power.

How do you define sun and moon?
Who is to say what is peculiar for each?
Foot or paw, skin or fur,
I always remain me.

Jacko Invites Himself to All the Best Parties by Kathy Crabbe
from her upcoming Lefty Oracle Deck.
Follow Kathy's artistic adventures on her blog.

This poem was inspired by the prompt given by Magaly Guerrero for Dark Poetry for the Cruelest Month 2016: Of Peculiar Fun and Me. 

Process note: There were so many ways I could have gone with this prompt, but something pulled at me to write this from the point of view of one of the recurring characters in my short stories, Yuuki (for new readers, he is a kitsune, a shape changing Japanese fox spirit, comfortable in whatever skin suits him best at the moment). 

Recalled Sunlight

Morning found me exploring
around the old chapel again.
The walls, at least, started in the right spots,
though broken plaster had long since yielded
to insistent vines and wings claiming shelter.

Finding my favorite boulder,
I sat, and stretched,
drinking the water I pulled
from the well earlier in my pilgrimage.
It held up to my memory:
sweet and restorative after the journey made,
fortifying the spirit for what lay further ahead.
The sun dappled boulder was a more congenial spot
to enjoy my libations,
than the hard backed pews,
softened somewhat by the spread of moss.  

The water finished, I went around back,
to find the spot I enjoyed hiding in
when I was small.
A sea of violets greeted me,
more dazzling under the stream of sunlight,
than the cold glitter of the stained glass windows,
once whole in the crumbling walls,  

My sketchbook came out.
I lost myself in translating petals and leaves
into lines and letters
until the results pleased me.

Only afterwards, I noticed
that although I’d outgrown my hiding spot,
I still had my sweet tooth.
I gathered the violets for candying later.
They would delight my children as well as myself.
Perhaps I would tell them the stories
I found along the way.  

This poem was inspired by two prompts: A Dash of Sunny's Prompt Nights - A Drop of Sunshine and Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads - Tax Day (use words from T.S. Elliot's The Waste Land. I used violets, wings, well, chapel, memory, broken, and glitter).

Roaring Lessons

My wee one with your dents de lion, you must start in your plump belly. Push out to pull the most air in. More air means a bigger roar. Have some snap in your bite, little dragon. Your teeth are sharp and strong. Show me the paws, young wolf, which will be a bane to those who would harm you. Both Beauty and Terror crouch outside your crib. You are not big enough to leave my arms yet. But while you are here, heed what I have to say so when the crown of flowers is yours, you do not question your strength.

Small of fang and paw,
the things which threaten are large,
but you will grow soon.

Madonna of the Flowers by Shelle Kennedy
Visit her blog, Sunshine Shelle, to see more great art!

This poem inspired by the prompt given by Magaly Guererro's Dark Poetry for the Cruelest Month 2016: Let's Haibun Her a Tale (a haibun based on Shelle's lovely art)

The Sum of My Experiences

I don’t remember a time
when my imagination didn’t have a yen for flight.
I was always the odd sprout in the cultivated flower bed.

I suppose it was easy to dismiss my fancies
as yet another song of a space cadet,
solitary and adrift in an imaginary orbit
because silence beckons more than playground noises do.
Many did.

But I never saw myself as afflicted
when in my mind I had adventures
as grand as any Miyazaki heroine.
Having myth in the blood isn’t a disease;
it’s an advantage.

As an adult I’ve thought about the past,
and decided I’m happy for my daydream addled youth,
even if others saw me as peculiar, and still do.
My ukiyo-e colored internal landscape
would have been far poorer without it. 
Any ink child of mine
would be a stunted and malnourished thing
if not a steady diet of faerie song.

See more of Magic Love Crow's work on her blog and Etsy page of the same name

This poem was inspired by a prompt given by Imaginary Gardens with Real Toad: A Poem of Our Own (Create poetry with the titles of our previous poems. Hey Magaly, does 13 work for you?)


At the start
understanding comes easy
to my head, and I comprehend things,
dissecting them into their smallest components.
But the heart is another matter.
Things aren’t really real,
not to me,
and without that wholeness
only heart-knowing imparts, I’m lost.
The rush of blood must follow the spark of logic,
igniting the special alchemy
which yields the sought for truth,
in the end.

Our Safe Place by Gina Morely. See more of her
art at her blog, Daydream Believer.

This poem was inspired by the prompt given by Magaly Guerrero for Dark Poetry for the Cruelest Month 2016: Care to Swirl with Me? (Swirl Triquain)

Cherry Blossom Diva

I have a very limited engagement,
once a year, perhaps for a week.
My performances inspire artists and poets.
Emperors and peasants stop
to enjoy a moment under my boughs.

So imagine my displeasure
to see I’ve been upstaged
by snow.
Clinging on my elegant limbs,
freezing my barely unfurling buds!

I simply cannot work like this.
If you can’t arrange for the proper conditions
for me to truly display the extent of my beauty,
I’ll simply stop performing
and you’ll have to wait until next year.

See to it this doesn’t happen again.

Actual picture of a tree in the Philly burbs on 4/9/16 taken by a friend, Christine Strieb

This poem was inspired by Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: Transforming With Nature's Words and by the cherry blossom trees who's peak bloom was cut short by an odd "second winter" in the Philladelphia suburb area (boo!)

Psychedelic Sun Storm

One hundred trees blink and wave their eyes hello.
One thousand earthworms weave veils of petrichor.
One million raindrops croon a waltz.

In the eye of the storm,
all these hallucinations seem more true
than the thought I could be loved
by such a miracle as you.

"Blessings""Fairy Baby Crow" by Magic Love Crow
Visit her at her blog, Magic Love Crow, or her Etsy shop of the same name.

This poem was inspired by the prompt given by Magaly Guerrero's Dark Poetry for the Cruelest Month 2016: The Poesy of Side Effects (write a poem based on a side effect of drugs).


I never thought about
anklets being more scandalous than bracelets
until Love in the Afternoon,
in which a trinket on Audrey Hepburn’s ankle,
along with her gamin smile,
ensorcelled Gary Cooper.

I suppose my jewelry
is more about self-expression than enticement.
A bit of me is reflected in each piece,
including my favorite anklet.

But there are some combinations
of metal and gems,
that in just the right light,
in just the right mood,
I borrow a bit of Audrey’s allure,
and become, if not a mistress,
at least an initiate,
into the magic she made on screen.  

This poem was inspired by the prompt given over at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: Bracelets They are rocking NaPoWriMo this year. 

Just A Drop for the Pain

Maybe it’s the rumble of empty stomachs
that makes it hard to understand what was said.
Maybe it’s the ache of backs that have worked too hard
with too little to show for it
making it difficult to comprehend.

It’s a toxic brew –
shame, from knowing it isn’t enough,
fear, of loosing what little there is,
distrust, of the dimly understood other.

It can cause a nasty ache,
and make a person beg
the nearest traveling salesman
for the tonic to make it all go away.

No one minds a drop of snake oil
when the numbness finally starts.
The ache that was a warning
that something more deep and dreadful
is eating you from the inside is stilled.

The price for miracle? Your eyes.
You might start to hurt again
if you saw the ache in others.

Let the nice man with the oil have them.
He might eat them.
He might stuff them up his nose.
He might wear them in his hair.

Who cares?
You aren’t in pain.
Isn’t that all that matters?

Yesterday's News by Shelle Kennedy
Visit her blog, Sunshine Shelle, for more terrific art work!

This poem was prompted by Magaly Guerrero's Poetry for the Cruelest Month: Idiots Herding the Blind

Birthday Dirge for a Daisy Warrior

Dear valiant warrior, of your fame I sing,
the Caribbean Valkyrie, born in the spring.
Let the populace tremble, shiver and shake
as we go and pillage Dominican cake.

May ink flow freely.
May blood stay red.
Yes, you are older,
but it beats being dead.

With hammers raised high, our ululations ring out.
Faint hearts go a-fleeing when they hear our shout,
for they know our sweets are a sublime pink hue
tinted by blood just especially for you.

May your smiles be wicked.
May hair grow wild on your head.
Yes, you are older,
but it beats being dead.

May your blades be not rusty. If rusty, ne’er wet.
If wet, throw them at enemies’ heads. Don’t fret!
Dealing with enemies should cause no frustration.
When all else fails, try defenestration.

May friends have glad hearts.
May all opposing feel dread.
Yes, you are older,
but it beats being dead.

An offering of Dominican cake would be especially fun in this!
handmade by Eliora

This poem was inspired by the prompt given by Magaly Guerrero Poetry for the Cruelest Month 2016: Write Me a Birthday Dirge

Process note: While I haven't had to make the disclaimer to point out that my work should generally not be taken as autobiographical or based on people I know, I want to take the time to point out this is TOTALLY all about tomorrow's birthday girl, Miss Magaly. I hope it made her smile, even though I couldn't stop laughing long enough to record this out loud. I kept trying to sound like the dwarven chant from Lord of the Rings. It didn't work. My voice sounds more like something that belongs to a hyperactive pink pony than a dwarven warrior.

Song Choice: Smile from My Little Pony (sung by Pinkie Pie)

April Daybreak

Nothing taunts like an April morning.
They are fickle,
promising mildness
which turns to bluster
by the time shadows curl up
at your feet.

It does not pay
to be in too much of a hurry
in April.

A bold sprout may thrust
through resistant earth
in March.
Perhaps it shall thrive.
Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
Shall the evening find it
yellowed and indistinguishable
among the withered remains of fall?

Though even in decay,
there may yet be life.
A stalwart mother
using all the strength of eight legs
took care
to hide her treasure
when she and the daylight
were dying.
So that her brood might
emerge during one of April’s benevolent moods
and have time to hide from each other
in October’s desiccated leavings,
before they devour each other
in the frenzy of birth.
Then, it pays to be fast.

The Hunger by Shelle Kennedy.
Visit her blog, Sunshine Shelle, for more wonderful art work!

Song Choice: Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve

This poem was inspired by the Prompt Given by Magaly Guerrero, Dark Poetry for the Cruelest Month 2016: Has It Begun to Sprout?