NaPoWriMo Prompt: Constellations

I always liked that Great Southern Dog
Not because he’s fighting the bull with Orion
As so many stories tell.

No, I always thought he was waiting,
Watching the hunter’s back, just in case
And perhaps thinking
“Go for it, Orion.  I’ll never understand
But I’ll be here in case he tries to put one in your flank.”

Sometimes, the dog is the sage
And man the student


Daily writing prompt for National Poetry Writers Month:  Constellations.


Prompted Writing: Unedited Poem

British Twin pounding beneath me

Exhaust notes echoing in the valley

Cold winter air numbing my face and freezing my smile

Rounding a corner I missed it

Gravel on the asphalt

My tires failed, reflexes failed

Stars beneath me, gravel and grass above me

And the earth spun off axis

Gasoline, motor oil, heat

Blood in my face, burning my pride

Dust halo surrounding me

I stood up

Stood it up

And got back in the saddle

Giggling and thanking God


(Written in response to a daily writing prompt for WriteYourselfAlive:  Write an unedited poem without changing words or order once written.)

Prompted Writing: It was in her eyes

I sat at my usual spot, back to the wall with journal open in front of me and my second pale ale settling in a glass just within reach. I abandoned typewritten word on a glowing screen for the familiar scratch of a fountain pen’s nib on toothy paper. It seemed to fit the setting better. A man can produce on a keyboard, but he can lose himself in ink. The crowd was energetic and spanned age and gender – a normal Tuesday night at the neighborhood brewpub. Friendly banter and alehouse philosophy filled the air and added to my reflective mood. I’m at home in the noise and movement. As much as I’ve tried to avoid it I’ve found that I love the distraction.

Two young ladies sat nearby, tasting each other’s beers and laughing about work and school, while two old men sat a foot away recalling the automobiles of their youth. A row of regulars sat at the bar watching sports on the muted TV, joking with the bartender as he polished glasses. Barley, the brewery owner’s Weimaraner, owned the floor and visited each table for belly rubs and scratching behind the ears in turn. A young man appearing to be an M.D. and a couple of nurses sipped stouts at a long table after what must have been a long shift, while a couple of auto mechanics in greasy shop shirts sat at the same long table enjoying pale ales. This town is like that. It may be the mid-south but we mix well. I found myself drifting in thought, writing less and thinking more, so I closed my journal.

To my left, two couples were seated together catching up on their lives. They were immersed in laughter when one of the men asked the other about something – I have no idea what – and he pulled out his phone to illustrate his reply. As he did, I saw his companion rub him on the shoulder and look at him with the unmistakeable look of a woman who was proud of her man. I don’t know what he was sharing, and it didn’t matter. What I focused on was her. She moved her hand from his shoulder to his knee and squeezed it, all the while her eyes never moved from his profile. He didn’t notice, but I did. I have had that in a woman and lost it more than once, and I know it’s value. A man can have everything but without that in his relationship with a woman he loves he has nothing. It was there between them. It was in her touch and her gaze. In her eyes I saw admiration.


(Written in response to a daily writing prompt for WriteYourselfAlive:  Introduce strangers in a public setting as if they are characters in a book.  {with a deviation to simply tell the story of a crowd of people in a brewpub})

Prompted Writing: A day in the life

It was Saturday on a weekend when he wouldn’t see his daughter. He rose as usual on such days, unable to sleep and tired of laying there in thought with his arm stretched across an otherwise empty king bed. His dog Gus, a German Wirehaired Pointer, was curled up and napping on his old leather moccasins beside the bed and rose with him. They both stretched, exhaled, growled, and padded through the house side by side. Sunlight crept in through the blinds, and in the low light he put water on for coffee, leashed his companion, and went outside to greet the cold.  Frost sparkled in the bright sun and the grass crunched under their feet.  Neither of them wore shoes.

He pressed a double espresso, added a bit of hot water, and settled in his chair.  He had cracked open a window and Gus was at his watch, keeping all safe from anyone who dared walk the sidewalk.  Bird songs came in through the window with the chill air.  Winter birds, gray and nondescript with unremarkable voices.  He liked unremarkable as much as the outstanding.  A journal laid open on the side table, with a fountain pen and a few scraps of paper inserted here and there.  Fragments of poetry and sentiments about love lost and found and lost again littered the pages.  As he sipped the syrupy black americano, he scratched his graying jawline and drifted in thought.  Preoccupied with the concept of stories, life as a story, and he settled in a paler shade of melancholy and smiled a bit.

Nausea from a bloodstream of little more than caffeine and last night’s antidepressants caught his attention.  It called for a breakfast with some substance to it.  Cohones.  After chilaquiles with salsa and more coffee he felt the rotten frailty of his humanity fade and normalcy return.

Sitting still was a skill he was working on and mostly failing at, so he dressed and went to the garage to look over the mess he had planned to clean up and reorganize that day.  When he raised the door and felt another draft of cold air and the warmth of sun on his face he knew that it wasn’t a day for cleaning.  He opened the gas cap on his motorcycle, a lean, black Triumph, and peered inside.  He turned the key, opened the fuel line, and thumbed the starter.  The British twin roared to life, settling quickly into a pounding lope as it warmed up.  He pulled on his jacket, a scarf, and a helmet, and sat on the saddle.  The scent of gasoline and leather were today’s aromatherapy.

He closed the garage, kicked it into gear and eased out onto the highway with no direction or plan. He’d bought the bike as a present to himself. Fly fishing gear and that motorcycle were the two things he’d allowed as bits of life that were just for him without practicality whatsoever and as an outlet after his separation and divorce.  It was supposed to be a diversion from thought, but as it turned out riding was more often than not the backbone of his best thinking.  He composed poetry and prose there, stopping at cafes to jot them into journals.  He worked through demons that had tortured him for years, doing his best to banish them with the exhaust fumes behind him on the road:  divorce, guilt of adopting his beloved daughter and light of his life though his marriage had failed, his inability to open up to others, brushes with darkness and near death.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not, but somehow punctuating thoughts and daydreams by hanging off the seat into a hard curve wasn’t a bad way to process life.

After a couple of hours of winding his way over rural highways he turned back towards town.  It had warmed up and turned into a beautiful afternoon.  He felt good.  On a whim he turned towards his favorite local craft brewery – a place he frequented to read and often write while soaking in the din of the crowd around him.  Their doors were open to let in fresh air and he ordered a stiff IPA, took out his journal and pen, and sat on a table outside.  He sipped his ale and scribbled a few starter verses of a poem about his season on a western wildfire crew while his motorcycle engine cooled nearby.  The tick of the engine and exhaust pipes after a ride always made him smile, and he found himself lost in no thought in particular.  He closed his journal, leaned back and let the sun shine on his face, and he knew in that moment, that he was going to be okay.

(Response to a daily writing prompt via WriteYourselfAlive:  Narrate a day in your life as part of an autobiographical novel.)