Some days more than others,
I wish for the paranormal
power of incantation
to reverse reality--
today, taking back the pink slip
after decades of service.
So much for your seven-year plan.
If we can hold only seven things
(plus or minus two)
in the fronts of our brains,
how many can be stored in back?
Because more than those will be
required to organize this effort,
struck at sixty.
Seven nights in each week.
How many nights in every year
did you give everything of you
to a place, an idea, a collective?
Apparently, a multiple
of the limits of seven
plus liberal magical thinking
equals the probability of severance.

For Friday, Fireblossom asked the Real Toads to write about MAGIC


read my mind

What to wear on your first flight?
Maybe something sheer and light--

From her rooftop patio,
At first she thought, take it slow

He could see her underpants;
She agreed to take a chance--

Leaping off, not looking down,
In that flyaway gauzy gown

He instructed, hold my hand
I'll catch you before you land.

Trusting him, she closed her eyes--
She knew she deserved his prize.

Superman, said the sassy girl,
My eyes reflect your whole world.

She said, if you need a friend
I'm the place your journey ends--

I am here, I'll be your friend--
           When you need love, here I am.

Ella asked the Real Toads to write a poem inspired by this quote from Coco Chanel: "Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening." Fashion is in the sky? Well, obviously!


sevenling (city in broad daylight)

Fifth Avenue's ice cream truck melody
riffs off a hot dog stand generator,
bucket-drummer rhythm section.

They say Times Square's washed clean.
Still, tourists rub up against poverty,
drunk executives, sad men in Elmo suits.

It's all gone under cover now.

This weekend's challenge to the Real Toads is the sevenling, a form I like a lot. And yeah, I know it's Monday night.


to mother on my 9th birthday

To Mother on My 9th Birthday

for Marian and Her Son

by Ariana Den Bleyker


Your hands have covered my eyes
with their tender veil, your breath
uncovering the gentle dust that spreads
and settles across my blown wish,
your voice like the wings of a small
bird opening and whispering memories
in seconds, a year apart from today.
Your lips fold and open with fading
sounds, throwing shadows across
the cake. I am happy like that too,
these joyous lights flickering before us,
that we are this bright bleeding tissue
that glistens in deep, untouched
rifts, those deep cuts that make
our love flow over the seasons.
The crimson plumes of your love
hang like banners from the ceiling,
from clouds. I taste the icing, sit
in front of you, watching you rise
from the shadows behind me, spread
your arms, offer me your eyes
like a surrendering soldier who will
always awaken when my soft spoken
words stir in the warmth of the air.

Today is my son's ninth birthday. I posted a prompt in the ALL CAPS PUBLISHING forums: Write a poem based on a kid's birthday. This is Ariana's response, which makes my eyes leak a little. Okay, quite a bit.

Don't you want to read more of Ariana's tremendous writing? Please consider ordering her book, The Trees Are On Fire. It's lush and wonderful, a treasure, really.


clarion call

The days were long,
smelling of blueberry scones,
pining for bluebird sightings.

A pileated woodpecker
kept time as, chapter by verse,
I journeyed otherwhere--

Nights were longer,
wrestling dragons for first--
only to lie with you.

Had I numbered all the trees,
draped a quilt on every fence,
I still would not find my way back.

photo by Marian Kent

Mary asked the Real Toads to write about fences, and include a photo, if possible. I took this photo years ago. This poem is my response upon seeing the photo again after all these years.

they might be limericks

When your favorite rock band of all time says on Facebook that they're holding a limerick contest, you enter it, right? Especially if you're me and your favorite band is They Might Be Giants. A limerick about current events in a contest for free tickets? Easy peasy!

So I wrote one, and I posted it as a comment on Facebook with a billion other people. And a while later when I looked again, They Might Be Giants had posted an update: "Enter the topical limerick contest. Win tickets of swag. This example from Marian Kent."

Did you get that, "This example from Marian Kent?" THIS EXAMPLE FROM MARIAN KENT! Ahem, my favorite rock band picked out my limerick and posted it for their billions of adoring fans as an example of excellent limericking! Holy hell, I just died and went to Geek Word Heaven.

Here's my limerick. Remember, topical! Current events, people. Heh.

There once was a library maven
whose reading style bordered on craven--
She'd read 50 Shades,
disrobe page by page--
And got kicked out for nude misbehavin'


dancing with You Know Who

He stood there, shivering, cursing himself and weaving just a little as a train rushed by behind him. Leather pants were not warm, he was learning just now. In fact, they seemed to embrace the cold like a beer coozie wrapped around an ice-cold PBR, and he was fucking freezing. This was what they meant when guys said they were freezing their nuts off, he guessed. They meant past-their-prime assholes in leather pants and cowboy hats standing on a train platform in fucking Boise, Idaho.

How did he get here? The better question was, assuming he had any capacity for self-reflection, how did he get to be such a laughable caricature of his former self? He could explain the bus from Reno to the three-week stint at the Oasis in Las Vegas, and the bus that had brought him to a gig in Boise that had brought him to his knees. But how had he crossed over, from Lord of the Dance to his gut overhanging tight leather pants, floundering around on the third-tier Vegas circuit?

What he needed was to go anywhere, away from the stage and the smack and the skanks and the booze flowing in the motel rooms of his flabby existence. Forever Dancing In Our Hearts, still, and vomiting in your bed if you get too close. He tugged his wan blonde hair from its ponytail in the hopes that it might warm the back of his neck just a little. Fingering a knot, pulling it through, his hand found the spot under his formerly white, long-ago starched collar where the skin still throbbed with the burn of a thousand needles. Man, you know you’re on a bad trip when you find yourself with a new tattoo and no memory of getting it.

The train approached, slowly, his train to anywhere. Truly, this train was headed to New York City by way of every mofo train station in between, so he could go wherever he fancied. At least it felt that way, having found a one-way train ticket to NYC tucked in amongst the tubes and tiny bottles of the ziploc bag that doubled as his dopp kit. Like the obtuse tattoo, he did not remember procuring the ticket, and he sure as hell knew he couldn’t afford to buy it himself. But it was gonna get him on this train to parts East, and so he was grateful for it. Very grateful. Epic gratitude, even.

As he boarded the train, he weaved again and had to grasp a pole to steady himself. He closed his eyes and felt the train start to move. Opening his eyes again, he was instantly struck with a feeling of deja-vu, a weird feeling in his stomach that was not pleasant at all. What on earth had happened? It was like the scene had shifted and he was somewhere else, on a different train, in different surroundings, with people who looked dated, somehow. This had been a crazy couple of days, for sure. Now what was going to happen?

“Young man, there’s a seat here. Would you like to sit down?” He looked around, and then realized that the elderly gentleman with the briefcase was addressing him.

“Huh, me?” His voice came out high and squeaky.

“Yes, young man. You should sit. It’s a good many hours to Wichita.” Wichita? He shuffled toward the seat just past the man, aware that his feet fell lightly on the sticky floor. Looking down, he noted black shoes with flames on them, white knee socks, and knobby knees above that.

He sat, completely discombobulated. What the hell had he taken that was lasting this long? The tattoo, the train ticket, now hallucinations on the train. It was going to be a long, strange trip, as they say.

“Why are you headed to Wichita, young man?” The older man peered at him, making him feel uncomfortable, though he couldn’t put a finger on exactly why. He shrugged back at the man and looked down, noticing for the first time the heavy three-ring binder he carried, black naugahyde with a ballet-shoes logo on the front.

“Looks like I’m going to the Mid-West Dance Champions Series Two Conference.” He opened the binder and something clicked in his brain.

Hah! This is a story I wrote for Cameron's wonderful Story Circle series a while back. I thought maybe it was time to bring this story home, mostly because I've been feeling blocked about writing fiction/stories lately. Maybe if this story sits here mocking me, I'll be inspired to write more! I could even write more of this here little story... hmmmm.

Meanwhile, you should all go check out the Story Circle--lots of good and interesting writing there!



why do four walls suggest
that this space is my sphere

we shout out, loud, and proud
hidden but for our dreaming

Brocky Karoly, Sleeping Bacchante, 1850
public domain: Wikimedia Commons

the window of opportunity
opens infrequently, so fly
i want you when i want
and demand that you say yes

Kenia asked the Real Toads to write couplets inspired by landai, folk poems of the women of Afghanistan.


all caps publishing

Introducing the newly re-imagined home of ALL CAPS PUBLISHING! 
Here's the mission and description of the ALL CAPS community:
ALL CAPS PUBLISHING is an independent poetry and fiction collective. We focus on the compelling, the truthy, the well-written. Our emphasis is on words that have an impact and make a difference.

We are a diverse, international group of writers and dreamers, poets and novelists. Big thinkers and problem solvers, mamas and daddies. Tight rhymers and free-flowers, early birds and sleep-till-nooners. And everything in between.

Collectively, we strive to:

  • support our members in publishing their own excellent works of poetry and short fiction under the ALL CAPS rubric
  • introduce our writing to new audiences
  • provide a community for sharing ideas, asking for help, receiving support, and taking a break
  • create an annual anthology of the best poetry and short fiction from ALL CAPS writers
And here's Marian, shrieking with excitement: YAYAYYYYYY!
Please click through and take a look: ALL CAPS PUBLISHING


for my firefly to remember

History repeats old defeats--
You have a choice. Heed your inner voice.

This fragment for my firefly jar was prompted by Kerry at Real Toads this weekend. Easy to recite; the (significant) challenge is to remember when it matters most.


when the cork pops

Words jam,
stuck, as in
a bottleneck,
pressure building,
demanding release,
But, thankfully,
something always
comes along
to relieve
the pressure--
Ah, hallelujah!
Like a fountain,
words explode
foaming over,
making a mess
of epic
Until you're sick
of yourself.

Laurie asked the Real Toads to ruminate on the topic of bottlenecks.


on being a loser

On a September day,
the anniversary of the suicide
of one of America's brilliant writers,
I read an interview with my own
favorite author, and learned that
despite his Pulitzer, he thinks
I'm still a loser, as if he ever was--

Yet on this day
young people gathered, creating silence
amidst jackhammers, reverence in the flurry--
And I realized that these students
experienced reading Wallace
not unlike my experience reading Chabon
and I was reminded: We are visitors, not losers.



Laboring under layers
of grey-tinged cumulus
like descending stairs,
parallel to those above,
dirt & root vegetables--

The air is different below,
what with the low cover
& pressing down of things.
If I could only breathe--
Gotta get the hell outta here.


take it don't break it

Better to have & not need it--
how could ya ever not need it?
Rather love him till ya bleed it.

How d'ya know when you have it?
Black & blue heart, now ya have it--
repo man comin' to grab it.

Hold on now, he'll try to take it--
can't resist, lusting to take it--
rip it out, pummel & break it.

Look inward! Rise up above it--
way up high, floating above it.
It's yer heart, yer work to love it.

Our music prompt at the Real Toads is the rhythm & blues of Barbara Lynn, circa 1960's.


it's better to have it

Please come join in on my occasional music/writing prompt over at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, where today we're traveling back to Nashville, circa 1966, to enjoy the songs of BARBARA LYNN.
it's better to have it


short sharp shocked

punch in the gut that girl
scrabbly busking in the streets
you'd link arms with her
what was the protest then
---i've come a long way
---i've come a long way
---you can drive for hours never leave LA

all the girls were there
your lover
didn't care
about some chick folksinger
you left him behind
---leroy says send a picture
---leroy says hello

---leroy says keep on rockin' girl
do you remember how you shook
when she raised her arms and sang
do you remember finding
nothing reflected in his eyes
---your love love love
---don't keep me satisfied
---it's always greener on the greener side

you know you were looking
in that green moment
you knew it was not there

you must learn to listen
---when i grow up i wanna be an old woman

Dedicated to Michelle Shocked with love and gratitude.

I wrote this in response to Kerry's request that the Real Toads write a poem that's an internal monologue. Though truthfully, my poem went off the rails somewhere in its creation and I don't think it's particularly responsive to the prompt. I'll try again, Kerry.


criminal element

The Journey to Hades
is not at all As you expected.
The grubby Chariot did not await;
you had to Hustle to catch it,
leaving your Peonies behind.
You could have employed Those
to counter the Fornicators
commemorating your Descent.
Do Flowers bloom in the Underworld?
You will find out Soon Enough.

"New York Subway" by Laurie Kolp

This weekend's challenge to the Real Toads features the photography of fellow Toad Laurie Kolp. Laurie's photography tells a story as surely as her words do--please be sure to check out her photos and her poems.


the trees are on fire

Friends, I am thrilled to announce that Ariana Den Bleyker's wonderful first collection of poems, The Trees Are On Fire, is now available via ALL CAPS PUBLISHING! Ariana's writing is rich, beautiful, sensual--in short, you will love her. Here's the book description:
With a youthful tone and from a unique perspective, Ariana D. Den Bleyker captures the essence of relationships, of losing love and innocence, of what it means to find the fierce fire burning in the heart. Her ability to harness the feminine is stunning, as she creates poetry that is visceral and haunting, yet easily accessible to any reader.

Yes, Pittsburgh friends, that's the Duquesne Incline. Doesn't that make you wanna read the book?!

Writer friends, Ariana is not a blogger herself (imagine!), but she is Editor-in-Chief of Emerge Literary Journal, a lovely poetry and short fiction journal to which you should consider submitting your work!

Congratulations, Ariana! Here's a link to the author page on the ALL CAPS site so you can learn more about Ariana, and this is the link to purchase her book via Amazon:
the trees are on fire