Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: read write poem (page 1 of 4)


It’s warm this afternoon,
and sunny—a spring day
of bluebonnets and tall grass
and songbirds in the trees.

It’s a beautiful day, but
heavy beyond my horizon.

The pictures are coming,
we all know they’re on the way,
we’ve seen them before:
birds dying in oil-choked seas,
blackened beaches, ruined
estuaries and suffocation.

They say it’s going to hail
tonight, here.

This is for Read Write Poem’s NaPoWriMo #29: Front Page News supplied by D.S. Apfelbaum. The poem is based on the dread I feel about the images we’re about to see when the oil slick hits the Louisiana coast. The pictures that will be on front pages in the coming days.

This is my last poem for National Poetry Writing Month. It’s also, sadly, my last response to a Read Write Poem prompt, since RWP is closing down tomorrow. It is Read Write Poem that inspired me to fulfill one of last year’s new years resolutions, which was to start sharing my poetry. It also led me to a vibrant community of online poets and writers of which I’m happy to be a part.

There are new sites gearing up, growing out of the community created by RWP, and that’s a great thing. Big Tent Poetry developed by Deb Scott, Carolee Sherwood, and Jill Crammond-Wickham will be doing weekly prompts starting next Monday, and I’ll be helping out as a “barker.” Starting on Thursday, We Write Poems, conceived and organized by Neil Reid will launch their weekly prompts. I’ll contributing a prompt or two there from time to time. Rounding out the online poetry prompt madness will be the Friday prompts at Rob Kirstner’s Writer’s Island.

Thanks to all of you mentioned above who are so dedicated to keeping these online poetry communities alive, and thanks especially to Dana Guthrie-Martin for Read Write Poem.

Navajo Country, 1996

Cars were rare along the highway
On that day of dusty miles.
You came up a ridge behind us to
Observe our passing.
Through the rearview, we watched you
Emerge, then fade back into the desert.

This is a response to Read Write Poems’ NaPoWriMo #27: Let Someone Else Take the Lead wherein Carolee invites writers to do an acrostic poem. I’ve never done one before, but figured I would need a short word for today and so I went with coyote, a favorite animal that I’ve heard far more often than seen. This poem is about the first time I saw one.

Though I’ve missed a few days of posting due to internet issues, I’ve been writing and back-posting what I wrote those days here and at a gnarled oak.

I’ll Race the Fiercest Gulls

How much time could you borrow to put off
the moment when you’ll go tomorrow?

The sound of earthquakes will reverberate
across saffron-tinged plateaus tomorrow.

Despite the coming squall, will the sky still
fill with pepper-colored crows tomorrow?

Through dizzying emporiums, I’ll hunt
the rare rust-colored rose tomorrow.

I’ll row this boat and race the fiercest gulls
across the Gulf of Mexico tomorrow.

I’ll grind my glass and polish brass to see
as far as Galileo tomorrow.

In tendrils of light across the night, I’ll
write my name to guide you home tomorrow.

Another attempt at writing a ghazal, this time using the words in the wordle prompt (NaPoWriMo #22) with an interesting set of words provided by Catherine. I used all of them except flinch.

One of the things I’ve been doing during NaPoWriMo is experimenting with forms I’ve rarely (or never) attempted and my favorite, thus far, is the ghazal. I first read ghazals in Sarah J. Sloat’s excellent chapbook In the Voice of a Minor Saint (Tilt Press, 2009) and was immediately struck by the form. You can read some of her fine ghazals at Linebreak and Eclectica (the one at Linebreak appears in the chapbook).

I only know of the form what I’ve read in wikipedia and deduced from studying Sloat’s poems and a few others I’ve found here and there, but when NaPoWriMo is over, I’ll probably try to learn more since it’s a form I find quite compelling.

Looking for Flaws, Hoping to Find Some

A student once asked for
something interesting to read.
Something good.
Something you can feel, she said.
Something honest.
Something real.

I asked what that would be like.

There would be misspelled words,
she said, a few bad sentences.
Not sufficient to interfere
with the story, mind you,
but an honest flaw or error
here or there so you’d know
it wasn’t perfect,
wasn’t meant to be.

Just enough to get a glimpse
of the true imperfect person
behind the artifice.

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt from Read Write Poem (#21: Perfectly Flawed) provided by Kristen McHenry asks us to consider the idea of perfection. It’s an interesting prompt that reminded me of a conversation I had with a student in one of my sophomore English classes a few years back. Further thoughts about perfection in literature were sparked by an interesting post, poetry by concession, at slow reads, which is very much worth checking out and probably influenced this poem.

The Desert Years

We drew maps showing river deltas,
our path predicted by the contours
of our fingerprints, and we followed
our spirals forever away from home.

Where there was water once,
we marked those places on the maps
and gave them names from dreams.

We camped beneath aircraft carriers,
marooned a hundred miles inland,
and spent nights watching our flames

flicker and dance
like tortured acrobats

laughing us to sleep
against the rusted hulks
of ruined navies.

In the mornings, we watched
the sky for clouds or crows
and threw rocks at the sun.

The rains never came.
We moved on.

This began as a response to Read Write Poem’s NaPoWriMo prompt # 17: Something Elemental provided by Neil Reid.


gasoline fumes

open highways
through memory

endless skies
& stars

& awareness

we’ll never be
this way again

This is for Read Write Poem’s NaPoWriMo prompt “What’s that smell?” provided by Julie Jordan Scott.

As usual my NaPoWriMo blogging for the weekend will consist of micro-poems over at a gnarled oak.

Best to Ignore the Wind

he heard the wind proclaim,
it’s not much farther now

saw the killdeer land in a ditch,
its feet running as they met the ground

studied the fading stains of
roadkilled armadillos

threw the bones of the library
on the sidewalk

picked through the oracles

divined messages
from broken patterns
and torn pages on

knew this all meant something
(knew it so deep it drove him silent)
these revelations he never


This is a response the the Read Write Poem Prompt: Secret Codes provided by Carolee Sherwood.

The Radiological Work Permit Day Labor Line

And each day the workers waited
for the renewal of their daily permits.

And when the clouded sky lightened,
they watched insects flicker and glow.

And old folks spat on the ground,
mumbling toothless legends of times

when all bugs weren’t lightning bugs,
when leaves burst forth from trees in spring,
when you could drink the rain and rivers,
when the sky was dark and there were stars.

And the memorists were shoved back,
kicked and beaten for their lies.

And everyone agreed with what we know:
since the beginning, all bugs have glowed.

A response to Read Write Poem’s NaPoWriMo prompt #2: The Old Acronym Switcheroo. I went with RWP as Radiological Work Permit.

I’ll be sticking with my usual no blogging on weekends routine, though I will still be doing NaPoWriMo, but the poems will be micro-poems posted at a gnarled oak, to which I do sometimes post on weekends.

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