the Bop: deeper within

prompt for the day: the Bop. The invention of poet Afaa Michael Weaver, the Bop is a kind of combination sonnet + song. Like a Shakespearan sonnet, it introduces, discusses, and then solves (or fails to solve) a problem. Like a song, it relies on refrains and repetition.

we need to be hyper
vigilant watching
always listening
for that moment
when the night falls
when you think you are light

it all begins deeper within

we can’t pull each other
into the spotlight
for a true moment
for a sharp dress down
for a reckoning
for redefining
all of our hearts
are so fragile

it all begins deeper within

trust in the drift
trust in the storm
trust in the stumbling motion
of time unfolding
trust that you don’t know everything
but you don’t know nothing

it all begins deeper within


Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that is a portrait of someone important to you. It doesn’t need to focus so much on what a person looks (or looked) like, as what they are or were.

i miss him in three places

his garage, empty,
the sound of crickets and locusts between us
him stepping out belly first
dancing his eyebrows at me
popping his teeth in and out of his gums
plaid shirt, denim and boots
arms wide, ready for me

his chair at the round table
surveying the people he’d made
six with fifteen more
his face lean and thrust forward to listen
he sat down when the table was set
he left when he was finished
he flirted with mema still
his eyes mischievous over his o of mouth

and on his horse
before me in the wood
bending under branches like he knew their names
talking my creature up a hill and down through a moving stream
galloping ahead of me across the field
where the pond was, before the highway came
saying the trees and telling me his memories
“this is what the lord has made
and it is good”

taught me

i found her face locked in a frame

I skipped the 7th prompt due to time travel. here it is.

In keeping with the fact that it’s the seventh day of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo, Elizabeth and I challenge you to write a poem about luck and fortuitousness.

i found her face locked in a frame
upright on oak in one room that creaks
windows showed that cotton of the carolinas

she wore a white dress buttoned to her chin
and she looked to be my kin
proper, rigid, unafraid
of the life she’d made

she was a past and a future me
not sure if she was owned or free
not sure how she was lucky

i wanted to scoop all of her up
the photo and all the memories
her lovers and all her mysteries
to know how she survived it

moroccan rugs and journals full
of ego, heartache, rail and bull
i wonder where she journeyed

i want to lay her in the box
of all the other things i’ve lost
echoes of an intimate past
the detritus that lasts


Because today is the ninth day of NaPoWriMo, I’d like to challenge you to write a nine-line poem.

sometimes i lose my hope
when the miracles have gone
my kind invented walls and wars
boxes cages bricks and bars
separation built of sticks
spilling blood that should not mix
signs to say who cannot come
bending fire into guns

some nights my hope is done

black joy

Today I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that relies on repetition. It can be repetition of a phrase, or just a word.

i opened the box to my black joy
it spilled out it covered my fingers
i wiped my tears away
i streaked my face with this smudge
this shade this shadow
this sweet dust
this star space
this shimmering surreal sidewalk
on a new york night

i had been dancing in my black joy
body rolling against strangers
who were all so shocked i was glee
ecstacy, was unbroken
was in my power
was magic
was spinning a golden thread
from my left hip
off that rooftop in brooklyn

long before i learned to cultivate black joy
i found myself feeling whole
because something showed through
the fog and the Secret
the life death life death in my heel
the held breath
the faux goddess
the running and running and running –
i showed through

i got gathered into black joy
got delivered got spent
got lifted up and plunged deep down
got left with
gifted and offered
got caught by
and filled up to overflowing with
got spilled over my own edges
with black joy

6 ways to see tonight

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that looks at the same thing from various points of view. The most famous poem of this type is probably Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. You don’t need to have thirteen ways of looking at something – just a few will do!

one missile is a devastation. what are we?

learning that under the armor, everyone (can this be true?) is a beloved.

(celebrate, my dream is in the hands of my loved ones…plant that feeling under the others.)

there’s a black writerwoman named shonda and she has learned how to take my breath away.

nothing keeps away the memories when you’re ready you’ll remember what happened to (all) the children, you’ll ask why do we hurt little ones?

in nine days, no one with a backbone will pay their taxes.


In honor of Mary Oliver’s work, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that is based in the natural world: it could be about a particular plant, animal, or a particular landscape. But it should be about a slice of the natural world that you have personally experienced and optimally, one that you have experienced often. Try to incorporate specific details while also stating why you find the chosen place or plant/animal meaningful.

the first time we howled
the moon was a sliver
a cup of light poised to pour
a stardust fascinator of gold
on the blue black

we were life moving through the forest
stepping on small branches which snapped with our weight
maple cracks sharp, oak cracks wet
magnolia cracks like fire
we sought the soft needles of pine

the moon was not bright enough
to cast truth on the borders
to say here, not here, there
all we could hear was the drum of fear
almost there, almost there

we were three miles free before we came to the endless river moving slow
the sun rising to pull pink steam off the
glistening path
us hunched on the rocks with fingers sliding into river

it’s so cold we gasp, and then we laugh
we’re so free we gasp
and then
we laugh

home going

Now for our prompt (optional, as always). One of the most popular British works of classical music is Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The “enigma” of the title is widely believed to be a hidden melody that is not actually played, but which is tucked somehow into the composition through counterpoint. Today I’d like you to take some inspiration from Elgar and write a poem with a secret – in other words, a poem with a word or idea or line that it isn’t expressing directly. The poem should function as a sort of riddle, but not necessarily a riddle of the “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” variety. You could choose a word, for example, “yellow,” and make everything in the poem something yellow, but never actually allude to their color. Or perhaps you could closely describe a famous physical location or person without ever mentioning what or who it actually is.

i was going home

from the store, pockets heavy
crossing the street i was eighty feet tall
a boy full of breath looking for a good time
a near-man who barely knew of kissing

pew pew pew
i was protecting everyone from robbers
with my plastic
and my wild american imagination
i was almost there

i was fear free flagrant woman
tobacco smoke in the car to balance my mind
i had a long day, my lover held my throat up for kisses before night came

to be honest i didn’t love the song
i just loved the vibration in the seat of the car, the walls, the rolled down windows shivering in rhythm
waiting for the tank to fill
to feel the wind move through our youth

i crashed the car in the night
shook up, surrounded by people in big houses, i chose the closest one
later i sent a thank you note for the moments in the light,
the use of the phone to call my momma

when i was a girl i would curl up next to grandma
so safe, i’d sleep like a cat in the sun
in the blue tones of TV light
on our hushed black street

i thought i was home
but i was going

elegy for masks

write an elegy – a poem that mourns or honors someone dead or something gone by. And I’d like to ask you to center the elegy on an unusual fact about the person or thing being mourned.

the whole time we been here we needed
another face to face the place we in
a sweet face to drift us through sour hunger
an honest face to cover the lie of ignorance
a mother face to gather up someone else’s child
while leaving our own wailing in the lean-to
a stoic face when something is taken from nothing, and for no reason
behind the faces we could breathe
the wet hot close stink air of life up against the edge of what a white world could handle

now our naked face can only say what is
everywhere we go our eyes seek the truth and bright up the moldy edges and unveil that we are not less than ourselves and not less than anyone else and our freedom has swollen us up, shaped us into a multitude of god’s face
the mask drips salt and water
into the dirt


how to love supreme

write a poem inspired by, or in the form of, a recipe! It can be a recipe for something real, like your grandmother’s lemon chiffon cake, or for something imaginary, like a love potion or a spell.

1 shackle, pile up like flower petal:
round her toe and her ankle
bare feet wounded by the earth
which doesn’t know how to hush with escape
which can’t imagine containment

idea(s) pulled from the eye:
of a beauty inverted from your own
of darkness wrapped up with danger
of hair that spread like virus
of sugar coated supremacy

1 barbed wire, unraveled from a heart:
opening the blood path to sky
soft confused touch on bruised flesh
that tried her whole life to be small
but she massive instead, even her heart

take these things under the next full moon
lay them flat on the naked soil
use one match per freedom – light it up
dance in the smoke until it thick all on you
and then dance even the smoke away