Monthly Archives: April 2021

Lost Again in the Animal (for dVerse Poets, 4/13/21

I wrote this for dVerse Poets last year but didn’t get it posted in time so the link had closed. Since it is perfect for today’s prompt, I’m going to publish it on dVerse Poets now. Here is the prompt: The challenge is to write a poem in the first person that compares some trait of ours with something animal. It should not be a whale, but another creature (mammal, fish, bird, insect, etc.) with which we have something in common. The title should be the animal thing, in the same way Marjorie Saiser chose ‘The Print the Whales Make’.

lifelessons - a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

This poem nearly drove me crazy. The form kept shifting when sent to WP, decided to screen shot, then to photograph, nothing working.Then mistakenly erased the first page of the manuscript, so couldn’t even print it in WP altered form. Finally decided to settle on these photos of the poem I’d made earlier that I found in the trash. Only to find the Open Link time for dVerse Poets had elapsed!!!  (Expletive deleted.) So, here it is with all its warts, three hours later!!!! Is 1 p.m. too early to drink????

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Breath, down through my lifetime, if I dare to cogitate,
creates a varied story that I’m driven to relate.
Along with embouchure, it was a subject of debate
that, added to execution, served to determine fate
by moving me from first chair to second, then to third
in placement in the school band. I easily conceded
to yield my place as first chair, and so was superseded
by player after player who played the saxophone
more skillfully than I did. I had not a bone
to pick with them. I knew I had neither skill nor lungs
to insure my placement in the upper rungs
of our school band’s placement. I really didn’t care
if I manned third or second or the first-ranked chair.

Tobacco, then pneumonia later played a hand
in lessening my lung power long after the school band
had retreated into history and a guitar took the place
of an instrument requiring both my breath and face
to execute its glories. And so my prowess lingers
longer now that it requires simply arms and fingers.
Meanwhile, my breath is used up by necessary things.
It talks and sighs and whistles and laughs and coughs and sings.
Even with more talent, it’s clear I’ve not enough of it
to put my mouth upon a reed and puff and puff and puff on it.
I’m glad I had no talent, for it would mean my death
if I had any other thing using up my breath!!!

Prompt words today are pneumonia, tobacco, embouchure, cogitate and empty.

How My Life Story Wound Up in the Sentinel: NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 13


How My Life Story Wound Up in the Sentinel

Startled awake by the end of the rain,
I rise to the quiet push of air
against my face and brain. I light the fire,
then lie on the couch under quilts.
One gray cat lies on top of me,
and the other jumps up soon after;
so for this long time before full light,
I am a warm bed for cats.

They fit themselves along the curves of my body,
pressing into the empty spaces.
My shoulder and arm are tucked
and held in place by the large male cat,

my folded knees and legs
pinned by the smaller yet heavier female.

As I reach for yesterday’s Sentinel
and the crossword puzzle pen clipped to it,
the male cat spills from my shoulder and arm
and moves to my hip.
Forsaking the Sunday puzzle,
I instead stroke his soft fur—
this stroke becoming an addiction
to both me and the cat,
who butts my hand with his head when I quit.

With my other hand,
I squeeze words into the margins of the newspaper—
the only paper within arm’s reach.
I have filled the margins of page one and I am writing
over the picture of a Maine house with no power.
My ink partially obscures the name of the female cadet
who has dropped out of the Virginia Military Academy
as my pen nudges closer to the comic pages.

I am telling my life story in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Over Dear Abby, my pen sails like a schooner.
When she says to practice tough love,
my words are over her words and my words say,
“I let the cat out
to the cold morning that fills the spaces
between the redwood trees.”

Five minutes later, he’s back again
crying at the door,
and I tell of it,
crossing the obituaries with details
of life in the mountains with cats
and a husband still sensibly in bed.

I write of rain that sits like a box around us
for five months of every year,
pressing our minds down to crossword puzzles
and mystery novels until,
huddled in bed under the electric blanket,
we find each other curled up
in the same cocoon.

His body spooned to my body
like a cat,
under the covers of rain,
we draw again into
the small bit of magic that powers
our crowded lives.

Outside, crisp air stands still, expectant,
as  from very high above, a squirrel
drops cone shards like confetti
from a swaying redwood branch,
her crooning forest calls
falling with them.
The sun is rising
and clear air beckons me to walk
to the end of our long rain-soaked driveway
to retrieve today’s paper.

In  the long hours spent awaiting dawn,
I’ve filled up with these words
the margins of yesterday’s paper.
I’ve crosshatched the want ads
and the “Bay Living” section
and the comics,

So that a  gray squirrel
zips across Blondie’s nose,

and a redwood tree spills its needles
onto Hagar the Horrible.

Somehow, my spouse ends up
nestled into bed
next to Dagwood,

and Cathy is almost obscured
by the curled bodies of cats.

Moving away from, then settling back into
this safe nest we’ve made,
I add one last description of my journey
down my driveway

and a life that for this moment
is released from rain.

And that is how my story—
what fills up my life—

came to fill up
the pages of the Sentinel.

The NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem in the form of a news article you wish would come out tomorrow.

More Than His Memory, dVerse Poets

More Than His Memory

More than his memory, it was his scent that awakened me to the full moon scrimmed by clouds. I moved to the sliding doors and out to the jacuzzi. Who else in this world would float on the surface of the water under this remarkable moon? The curious cat came to bear company, and the dogs. One hummingbird whirred incongruous over blooms in the night. This pulse in my ear of hummingbird and blood drew one mosquito into its chorus, annoying and persistent, to drive me into the water as easily as his scent had pulled me out of my shell of troubling dreams into the glowing night. A hand smoothed a path in the water, as if to welcome me. “If you are a dreamer, come in,” he said.



The prompt was to use the line “If you are a dreamer, come in,” in a story with a beginning, middle and end that was under 144 words. For dVerse Poets.

On Strike (At Odds With The Prompts)

On Strike

(Prompt words today are glass, never, hectic, tyro (novice) and rebirth. For the NaPoWriMo Prompt “Past and Future.” we are challenged  to write a poem using at least one word/concept/idea from each of two specialty dictionaries: Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary and the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction.)

I am not in the mood to write about glass.
My mood of the moment? Belligerent sass!
The prompt words are silly and way too eclectic.
They leave me feeling frustrated and hectic,
as though I’m a tyro at trying to rhyme—
in need of a rebirth in iambic time.
I’ll never complete the task as assigned,
but I’m sure that my readers will not even mind.
Aren’t you tired of my inane ill-rhymed verse?
If I added the classical, it would be worse.
Then sci-fi allusions? Just bring on the hearse!
Sometimes these prompts can end up as a curse.


Image by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash. Used with permission

Bird Talk, Arizona Lingo Style

Bird Talk


Spent an hour out on my sister’s patio that is a few yards from the draw. This is the bird conversation that I overheard:

Beaver, beaver, beaver, beaver

chip chip chip chip

Whee whee whee whee

daring do, daring do, daring do, daring do

cherry cherry cherry cherry

who’re you? who’re you? who’re you? who’re you?

chip chip chip chip chip chip chip chip

Pretty bird. Pretty pretty pretty

choo choo choo choo choo choo choo choo

wheet wheet

cheerio cheerio cheerio cheerio

beaver, beaver, beaver, beaver, beaver, beaver.

pretty pretty pretty pretty

trrrrrrrr trrrrrrrr trrrrrrr trrrrr

oooeeeooooeee ooeee oooeee

pooooreeee poooreeee pooorrrreee

cheater cheater

pretty bird pretty bird

chee chee chee chee chee chee chee

cheater cheater cheater cheater

t t t t t t t t t
Peter, Peter, Peter, Peter, Peter, Peter

whilygig? whirlygig? whirlygig? whirlygig?

Does anyone know any of these bird languages?

(Click on the photos below to enlarge and read the captions.)

“Dear Self” for NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 11, Plus Daily Prompts,

poem a

Dear Self: The Query

I’ve written all the words. That is the easy part.
But why can I not  finish the projects that I start?
Four books that I have finished languish on the shelf.
I cannot follow through with them. I cannot help myself!
A letter to an agent, a query or request,
someone to pursue the task, perhaps, at my behest?
It just seems impossible to do what I must do.
I haven’t the ability to simply follow through.
I need a deus ex machina to simplify my task.
A simple intervention. Is it too much to ask?


Dear Self: The Reply

Jettison your worry. Throw away your fear.
Regain your former confidence. Shift to a higher gear.
Every rigorous journey requires a last step.

Why would you avoid it when you’ve done all the prep?
I think that fear of failure is your fatal flaw.
Those who seek lionization must face the lion’s maw.
Time’s persistent pendulum repeats its past percussions.
Those who overlook them will suffer repercussions.
“Done begins with do,” is the most memorable of morals.
You succeed by finishing, not resting on your laurels.


Ironically, “Done Begins with Do” was my class motto when I graduated from high school.

Prompts today are: confidence, jettison, memorable, percuss and repeat.
And also, the prompt  for NaPoWriMo today was to write a letter and a reply. for the