Tag Archives: napowrimo 2021

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.

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

“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


Junk Drawer




This is the prompt:

  • First, find a song with which you are familiar – it could be a favorite song of yours, or one that just evokes memories of your past. Listen to the song and take notes as you do, without overthinking it or worrying about your notes making sense.
  • Next, rifle through the objects in your junk drawer – or wherever you keep loose odds and ends that don’t have a place otherwise. (Mine contains picture-hanging wire, stamps, rubber bands, and two unfinished wooden spoons I started whittling four years ago after taking a spoon-making class). On a separate page from your song-notes page, write about the objects in the drawer, for as long as you care to.
  • Now, bring your two pages of notes together and write a poem that weaves together your ideas and observations from both pages

    Click on the arrow on the album to hear the song.

For NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 10

“To Do” List for a New Roommate (NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 9 and Daily Prompts)

“To Do” List for a New Roommate

*If you value this abode,
please plan to shoulder half the load
to keep it lovely, clean and neat.
This rule, I will not repeat.

*Underwear should not be seen
on chair or floor or in-between.
(To insure I’m a happy camper,
dirty clothes go in the hamper.)

*If, on occasion, you feel you might
have a lover spend the night,
lest my ire you might incite,
please have him leave by morning light.

*No mongrels, kittens, fish or birds
or other denizens of herds
may cross my doorway, now or ever.
In short, are pets allowed? No. Never!!!

*If personal details you recite,
please insure they are not trite,
for next to messiness and snoring,
I most dread roommates who are boring.

* Don’t steal my cookies or my chips.
My food should never pass your lips.
Don’t steal my leftover knishes,
and when you cook, do your own dishes.

*If these requests you can’t abide,
just pack your bags and move outside!
Follow my rules, or it’s your loss,
for in this house, I am the boss!


Prompt words today are shoulder, underwear, mongrel, trite and love.  Image by Sincerely Media on Unsplash. Used with permission. 

Also, for NaPoWriMo, Day 9, Make a To-Do List

Unmarked Grave: NaPoWriMo Day 8,

Unmarked Grave

The colonel raised me to be great.
As tall as was he—a giant of a man.
Handsome and clever,
a winner of confidence,
I was his favorite son.

I played the role, but lost myself
in one who broke my heart by leaving.
Then, as so many others who fled
during those dangerous times,

my best friend of a lifetime went away,
the two of them leaving me with no support.

I fell victim to the flattery of a tyrant
and chose the wrong side.
Then, knowing my end was near,
I refused to run
but met my fate—
A bullet delivered by that Surafel, a childhood friend
who himself was caught by the Derg and brutally killed.

“Hero of the Revolution” my caption read,
yet they buried us both, as so many others,
in an unmarked grave.
My father wept and grew old,
my whole family collapsing in on itself.

By what miracle,
forty years later
in a land 9,000 miles away,
did my former love
hear my whole story
and write these lines?

For NaPoWriMo Day 8, the prompt was to read a few of the poems from Spoon River Anthology, and then write my own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead.

“Don’t” NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 7


Who can love
a bit of sweetness
so lacking
at its heart
that it’s more not there than there?
A donut lover!

The prompt for Day 7 of NaPoWriMo is to write a shadorma. Image by Matt Walsh on Unsplash, used with permission.

The shadorma is a six-line, 26-syllable poem. The syllable count by line is 3/5/3/3/7/5. So, like the haiku, the lines are relatively short.


Inside My Sister’s Mind

For NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 6, the prompt is: Go to a book you love. Find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.

The line I chose was “Not all those who wander are lost.” from —The Lord of the Rings by  J.R.R. Tolkein. This is the poem that resulted. The quote in the last line of the poem is from the title character in Hamlet, by Wm. Shakespeare.

                    Inside My Sister’s Mind

In my life, sometimes,
when I was farthest from knowing where I was,
I was the closest to finding myself.

Is this how it is
for those who wander
the countless corridors of dementia?
Do they encounter themselves,
                   again and again,
unstuck from time?

Do our constant attempts to bring them back 
              hamper their journeys,
       start them over again,

Every road we travel
need not be the same road—straight and chronological.
            Dreams teach us that.
                                           Unstick us.
Put our minds in the clouds to float
          hors d’oeuvres of memory,

                                   a bite           here
                  and a bite           there.

Who are we to try to attempt to force feed an entire meal?

Perhaps dementia is a diet, of sorts, for the mind.
                                             Selecting the most delectable,
                        forsaking the usual progression.

For our whole lives, we stuff ourselves

in a predictable manner,
             from soup to crème brûlée.

Perhaps those lost to us are only lost to us,
    but not themselves.
Perhaps their minds, led by a different palate,
             enjoy a picnic of pick-and-choose,
spread out over a meadow
                on a blanket that obscures
                                             to allow them to enjoy
each morsel
by the memory of the last.

“There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”


Safety in Numbers

Safety in Numbers

It might beseem the patriarch to forego actions radical,
forsaking them for pastimes more blandly mathematical.
Discourse over Pi and coffee a safer course, by far,
than plotting revolution at a local bar.
That there’s safety in numbers is a much-repeated platitude
much favored over taking risks with a subversive attitude.

Prompt words today are radical, patriarch, beseem and coffee. Image by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash, used with permission.
And for NaPoWriMo, Day 5

Empty Cities: NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 4 Liminal Poem

Click on images to enlarge.

Empty Cities

The ghosts of hamburgers lurk in the air,
waiting for children no longer there.
All of their voices turned empty and spare,
waiting lines empty and every chair
devoid of bodies. Each table bare.
To where have they gone? Do you know where?
If people all vanished, would the world care?
Would the lynx and the bobcat, the fox and the hare

and deer from the forests and crocodiles dare
to enter our shopping malls and broach the stair
forever silent, frozen and still?
Would they climb the escalator’s metal hill
and move into spaces filled with our things?
Jackets and towels and soup bowls and rings?
Refrigerators, bicycles and shoes,
donuts and bagels and pretzels and booze?

Tip over displays and ponder just what
we ever accomplished with all of this glut?
When we are gone will the animals wonder
what they can do with all of this plunder?
Will they swim in our pools and loll on our greens?
Will they scratch their wild backs on our mowing machines?
Leap over our cars and stream over our bridges,
enter our houses and nose through our fridges?

Will they make a nest of the socialite’s mink?
Have dozens of babies in our kitchen sink?
Remove stuffing from mattresses to create burrows?
Tunnel under our lawns to make ridges and furrows?
Will monkeys swing from our huge chandeliers?
Chimps drive our cars and strip all the gears?
Cows graze through our parks and horses run free,
no saddles inhibiting their liberty?

Just imagine our world once mankind is vanished.
Once we’ve insured we are finally banished.
Clean air and clean oceans. No traffic or noise.
No cars and no airplanes. No rush hour noise.
No traffic or crowds. No exhaust pipes or trash.
No credit cards, coupons or coinage or cash.
What we saw as improvements will all rust away,
covered with vines, to slowly decay.

Mankind just a segment of time’s stony layers,
our music and art and headlines and prayers
all just one strata within the earth’s stories,
buried like all of her other brief glories.
After we’ve suffered earth’s most recent purge,
and we’re all gone, what else will emerge?


For NaPoWriMo 2021 Day Four, Liminal Poem