Doesn’t add up

Day 22: A Children’s Poem

This reminds me of an assignment I had in high school astronomy to explain a concept in a way a child would understand. Naturally, I chose black holes and hand-illustrated a book where Sally Celery and her vegetable friends ventured too close to a black hole (someone’s mouth) and were doomed once they passed the Schwarzchild radius (lips). My teacher managed to lose my book and, to add insult to injury, misplaced it before he graded it. I ended up having to come with a replacement at the last second, a poem about the planets to the tune of the Beatles’ “In My Life,” which I performed in class. Back to the subject at hand, this poem will not be about black holes but a subject I always felt far inferior to English.

Bad Addition

Math, math horrible math.
Words aren’t a problem
unless they’re word problems,
the source of all my wrath.

Nobody calls it the Big Apple

Day 21: New York School Poem

New York School was an informal group of artists, including poets, who lived in New York in the 50s and 60s. The poets adopted a stream-of-consciousness, pop culture-laden style that, unsurprisingly, made frequent mention of places and people associated with New York. Here’s a link to the so-called rules of the New York School. My dad’s from Long Island, so I try to go to New York every year or so see relatives. This poem references several visits, though I’m not sure I would call this a poem. I actually wrote this yesterday and forgot to post it. Oops.

A Scoopful of Recriminations

You said there was a Baskin Robbins at Penn Station, mom, so where is it?
I was really craving ice cream, and no, I don’t want Dunkin’ Donuts.
Do you remember that time dad forgot to pick me up from basketball practice
and he treated me to Baskin Robbins as an apology?
(I conveniently forgot to mention that you and I went there earlier that day.)
Now I don’t feel bad about waiting inside that coffee shop winter of 1998
while you waited outside at the half-priced ticket booth in Times Square
and got speared by snowflakes.

All in the family

Day 20: A Poem from the Point of View of a Family Member

It took me all of two seconds to figure out which family member’s point of view I’d be writing from.

Human Nature

Why do glowing rectangles transfix her for hours
when there are birds right outside the window?
Where she disappear for all day,
without leaving anyone to shake my food bowl?

I’ll let a sliver of sunlight swallow the hours,
until it’s time to trip her coming in the door.
I must remind her where my food dish is;
she’s been gone so long she’s clearly forgotten.

When the night falls, she warms my pillow,
after I nudge her head out of the way.
She tells me to quiet my snores,
so I go on my nightly gallop.

She does not appreciate my exercise regimen,
but I suspect it’s because she’s slightly mad.
She keeps such odd hours, awake all day,
and she will not sleep upon the floor at all.

She shills seashells

Day 19: A Poem Inspired by Weird Seashell Names

After seeing these wacky names, I wouldn’t mind making a hobby out of seashell-naming. I couldn’t resist fitting all nineteen names into one poem.

Just Drive

That ghastly miter just cut me off.
I hope someone carves an incised moon on his door.
Competent drivers are sparse doves here.
Most are strawberry top tourists
wearing their heavy bonnets and Peruvian hats,
with ill-matching leather donaxes
and false cup-and-saucer sunglasses.
They head for the Gulf or Atlantic turkey wing
in their shuttlecock volva and striped engina rental cars,
paddling woody canoebubbles to glimpse manatees
and furry snout otter clambakes.
(Those shoulderblade sea cats are mollusk masters.)
Then, unequal bittersweet, they drive back,
leaving a thread of triangular nutmeg exhaust
against a tricolor niso sunset,
a golden Lazarus jewel box that will rise again.

Was Xerxes a fan?

Day 18: Rubāʿī

A rubāʿī  (plural rubāʿiyāt) is a Persian poetic form made up of a four-line stanza with an AABA rhyme scheme. It turns out Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” is one of the most famous examples, which means the golden shovel I wrote on Day 5 was also made up of rubāʿiyāt.
I remember ordering a small drink at a movie theater and, after seeing how gigantic it was, exclaimed that no wonder so many people in this country are overweight. I didn’t quite mean to say it as loud as I did and felt a lot of people glaring at me. This poem is about the other cause of the problem.


How little time are we on our feet?
Seated at our desks, curled up on the couch,
too lazy to get up and make something to eat,
driving somewhere right down the street.

We circle the lot for a closer spot,
take the elevator without a thought,
carry everything at once to save a trip,
get home delivery for most things we’ve bought.

No wonder 2/3 of us are overweight.
Inertia is not a desirable state.
Did we forget what it’s like to take a walk?
We’ll all be dead of heart attacks at this rate.

Sensory overload

Day 17: A Poem Describing Something with at Least Three of the Five Senses

I vaguely remember having a prompt like this in a poetry class in school.

Slice of Life

The whole kitchen exhales
this ethereal aroma for hours after.
Its golden gleam cannot be diminished
by dull fluorescent lights.
A gentle rap on its surface
evokes soft echoes of childhood.
It tastes of crisp, warm memories.

Liar, liar

Day 16: A Ten-Line Poem Made up of Lies

This prompt reminds me of an assignment I had in the fourth grade to write a tall tale, literally and figuratively. Mine was almost as tall as me!

Say What You Mean

She literally almost died
when he said “I hate to break it to you,
but I’m not gonna lie.
All I know is
it’s not you; it’s me.”
She responded, “Sorry to interrupt,
don’t mean to be mean,
but in the nicest way possible,
I guarantee I probably
could care less.”

Terza rima at long last

Day 15: Terza Rima

I’ve always wanted to write a poem in this form, and now’s my chance. It features three-line stanzas with ABA, BCB, CDC, etc. rhyme scheme ending with a final line rhyming with the first and third lines of the previous stanza. There’s no set rhythm, but I tried to keep to iambic pentameter. I decided to change the structure slightly by ending with a three-line stanza, where the middle line rhymes with the first and third lines of the first stanza.

A friend requested I write a poem about insomnia ages ago, so I’m finally fulfilling my promise to her. I tend to fall asleep the minute my head hits the pillow, unless I’m sick, so it’s not something I can much relate to. However, I’m a bit sleep-deprived today, which means I can use my exhaustion as inspiration.


I close my eyes to sleep, but still I can’t.
My limbs refuse to find a comfort zone.
Few hours more of this I’ll start to rant.

I went to bed too late; I should’ve known.
I must not check the clock! But – oops – I did.
That time cannot be right (internal moan).

I feel the weight bear down each lash-rimmed lid,
and yet no dreams will overtake my mind.
If I don’t fall asleep soon, god forbid,

I’ll never make it through the daily grind.
(You don’t suppose they’ll notice I’m asleep?)
Oh, no. Already half the night’s behind!

What moron recommended counting sheep?
And “soothing” music keeps me wide-awake.
Whoever touts these methods is a creep.

I’m too enraged to sleep for goodness sake!
It cannot be the dawn’s cursed early light,
when every atom in me seems to ache.

The sun should not contend to be so bright!
Oh, why is time for catching up on sleep so scant?
I can’t remember when I slept all night.

Without Question

Day 14: All questions except the last line

Today’s prompt is to write a poem where everyone line but the last is a question. I was thinking this sounded like something I did last year, and it turns out it’s the opposite of last year’s Day 7 prompt.


Why can’t I see my computer screen?
Why are my blinds askew?
Why can’t I sleep on my pillows?
Why is my clean laundry orange?

What did I trip over in the dark?
What happened to the papers I set down?
What was that crash at 3am?
What keeps crushing my ribcage?

A three-letter answer
to a four-legged problem.

The king of Viking poetry

Day 13: A Poem with a Kenning or Two

My last semester of college, I took a class on the Vikings and became well-acquainted with kennings in the various sagas I read. A kenning is a compound word used to describe another word, e.g. “whale-road” to mean ocean. They can also be genetive, such as “feeder of ravens” to mean warrior (one wonders if a great warrior would be called “starver of ravens”). I figured a Scandinavian literary trope would be a good way to describe one of my favorite Scandinavian sights.

Foss Hope*

The earth’s locks frame her silvery face,
perched atop a land-wave,
in a gown of liquid lace.

Rainbow ensnarer, bottler of air,
her foam-song is inviting,
but her basalt blades tear.


*This is about Seljalandsfoss, my favorite Icelandic waterfall, mainly because I could walk behind it.