“Parable of the Red Birds” and other poems by poets in response to last Wednesday’s Writing Prompt

Last Wednesday’s Writing Prompt (April 19,2017): “We’ve probably all been there and/or known someone who’s been there, thinking if they change where they live, who their married to, where they go to school, things will be better. Maybe they will, but probably not unless there are some internal changes. What’s your view or experience? Tell us in poem or prose.”

I think each of these poets did a fine job in responding. I enjoyed their work and know you will too.  Read on …

Parable of the Red Birds

The cardinals outside my window
Have two babies cuddled in the nest-
I peered in to see gray downy bundles
Rather ugly little fellows, mouths all agape.

Today, the fledglings are out of the nest.
The male cardinal has been vigilant,
Constantly flying to the little dears,
Dropping food in their open mouths.

While they flap clumsy tiny wings
The father flits about, devout in his care
Leaving me to wonder, where is Momma?
What is that Momma Cardinal up to?

After a little reading, I have discovered
No—she didn’t fly the coop with a lover-
She’s off to make her second nest of eggs.
The father is feeding her and the babies!

So what does this have to do with the grass
Looking greener over the fence? Nothing.
Sometimes everything is as it should be-
Your home is where your family assembles-

Either the family you’re been born with
Or the cackle of friends you’ve chosen
And gathered, dear one by dear one,
And it’s the place you build your wings.

© 2017, Sharon Frye (The Poetry of Sharon Frye)

Sharon is new to this exercise but not new to this site.  She was featured here as American She-Poet (12). Her new collection, Blue Lamentations (Cold River Press, 2017), is now available.

quite often these days

I focus on a moment from the past
identify strongly with it
and very soon find myself back there
pursuing a path that leads
from that moment into other moments
that just might have been

so that I am lost in passageways
I never took—corridors of time
I maybe only half-explored; it’s an effort
to wrench myself away back here
where all’s strange and unaccountable
& forlorn with a sense of great loss

so it was when I discovered (used as
a bookmark) a letter I never answered
asking me if I was happy now
I had left her and gone my own way—
if I could let her know (she said) she’d
rest content so I disappear into her

missing me and start wondering how
to reply—the letter is fifty-five years old
for god’s sake but as I said I’m prone
to follow up these distant naked leads
fully expecting the characters I bring to life
to make a response to me as I do to them

©Colin Blundell (colinbludell.com),  From The Recovery of Wonder published in 2013 under Colin’s Hub Editions imprint)


:: when ::

when small boys wake early,

when the journey is long,

the other disturbing the night

until all around is tired,

no real work done.

breaking backs.

have you really lost your arm,

have you really changed your life,

have you lost your sun glasses

in paradise?

do you know the people here,

who think i have sold my house,

who look after the dead,

© Sonja Benskin Mesher (Sonja Benskin Mesher, RCA)


She traveled north
with her husband she chose
based on society’s mores
his decision accepted based
on her need to fly

trading asphalt and concrete
for a similar landscape
peppered with evergreens

leaving behind her self
melting in the heat of day
preparing for a rain cleansing
her of tainted memories

she traded her self-identity
with the prospect of years
rearing children alone
in unfamiliar landscape
needing to fly

always tethered & wings clipped
by a ritual of custom
her wings a rainbow

coloring her inside and out
brightened by the sun
dampened by the rain
her self conflicted interests

birds fly home to roost and nest
innate to their very being
so each time she returned to
her place of birth she
fell into memories

coming to know her colored feathers
of self would always remain
inside no matter
the need to fly

© 2017, Renee Espriu (Renee Just Turtle Flight)

1.) Picked Apple Falls Hard On Him

Him On Her

apples, little earths
of laughtered kisses

of words that tickle
of giggle flesh,

deep red and green
or change in colour

from one to the other
or pick one.

Your apricots, peaches
and nectarines

a predatory sweetness
invites the unwary

as you feel slightly soft
and pull away easily

blackcurrant berries
swell to full size and turn

a shiny blue-black
incise deep past

the mantel to core
molten with sweet
juice oozes

over your tongue
out of the flesh

out of the month
through holes in the bones
life agape

Picked Apple, woodbride,
you tend gardens with skill,

devoted to orchards’ care,
love fields and branches

laden with ripe apples,
carry a curved pruning knife,

cut back scraggy growth,
lop limbs spread too far,

split bark, insert a graft,
provide sap from different stock
for trees bairns.

Will not suffer them being parched, waters twining tendrils o’ their thirsty

root. This is your love, your passion,
no need of lust. Workaholic, close

yourself off in an orchard, post a notice, ” No Men Allowed”.

2.) Her On Him

glance and you’re a scraggy girl darkened in denim,

a bespectacled man in a ballooned jumper, honeyed farmer, shy hunter,

mollusced fisherman.
I wake up to a tupped shepherd,

come back to a wick carjacker.
You’re everyone else, but yourself.

can’t pin you down,
my turning year,

first grape that darkens
on purpling bunch,

spiky corn-ear that swells
with milky grain; near my toes

you’re sweet cherries, autumn plums and a mulberry redder

in summer,
a change in the weather,

a new set of clothes,
an alteration in the air,
and I love you.

3.) My Seduction

A challenge. Never impress
you as myself.

Too young, no prospects.
Men have to invent

themselves to get anywhere.
I want to see you all the time.

So I turns up at your door
a rude farmer,

brought you a basket
filled with ears of barley.

Next, my forehead bound with freshly cut hay, as I might have been tossing new-mown grass.

“Sorry. No men. Busy.”

Another day I lumped horses
bridle in my stiff hand,

so you’d swear I’d unyoked
a weary team.

“No stables. Goodbye!”

With knife I were a female dresser
and pruner of vines:
“No vines here. I’m busy.”

Sometimes I’d carry ladder
and bucket a Window cleaner.

“No windows here. Goodbye.”

A scraggy girl darkened in denim,
beg a bunch of wildflowers
for her mam and you say
“Nothing wild in this garden, girl.
Sorry, mowed them all down”

A bespectacled man in a ballooned jumper, honeyed farmer, shy hunter,
mollusced fisherman.

“Sorry. Read the notice. No men allowed.”

4.) The Old Lass

I wrap my head with a coloured scarf,
lean on a staff, sprout grey hair, wrinkled

as a decaying fruit, caved in hollows,
thin skin, fungus faced, moles, brown

blotches, sour breath, stink of stale piss lingers, and a small spiky moustache.

She lets me in her well-tended garden,
to admire fruit and fruit of her

She a Pear’s sweetness
salves a searching tongue,

a Peach’s blush like sunrise
a Plum’s scent entices, smooth and laughing,

a Cherry’s scarlet lips rain sodden
a blossoming branch
makes bees dance

a secret orchard
‘You are so much more lovely’,

I snog her.
Then apologise.

Sit on flattened grass,
look at branches bend weighed
down with fruit.

Vine and Tree
There is an elm opposite,

gleaming bunches of grapes.
I tell her
“Remarkable tree, and its entwining vine.
But, if that tree stood there, unmated,

without its vine, it wouldn’t be sought after for more than its leaves, and vine

also, joined to and rests on the elm,
will lie on the ground,

if it were not married to it, and leaning on it.’

You reply “It is a tree. Marriage means nothing to me.”

“A thousand men want you,
you shun them, turn away.”

But, if you are wise,
if you want to marry well,

listen to me, an old lass,
as loves you more than you think,

more than them all, reject others
and choose Change to share your bed!

You have my pledge as well:
he’s not better known to himself

than he is to me: he does not wander
hither and thither, lives by himself

and he doesn’t love latest girl he’s seen.
You’ll be his first love, and his last.

He’ll devote his life only to you.
He’s young, blessed with natural charm,

can take on a fitting appearance, if needs be. Whatever you want,

though you ask for all of it,
he will do.

He doesn’t want fruit of your trees,
or sweet juice of your herbs:

he needs nothing but you.
Take pity on his ardour,

and believe that he,
who seeks you,

is begging you,
in person, through my gob.

I’ll tell you the tale
of Stone Lass

“Spunk sees Cruel lass from afar
gobsmacked by her looks
he gets smitten hard
and determines she’ll be hooked

Asks her mates for her mobile number,
and all her social media pages,
scours internet for details,
winds himself up in rages.

Gets his message through once
or twice but she mocks him
” Fancy me. You do right. I’m gorgeous”
and promptly blocks him.

Finds her home and knocks
and her Dad answers and says
“She don’t want to know, son.
Thinks your a stalker. Away!”

Writes his first letter and posts
it personally through her door,
it tells her she’s won and he’ll be gone
she can celebrate and more

she can see him lose his life
which is all he has left for her.
Cruel scoffs at this but goes along
for the crack and laughter.

She sees him throw a rope
already knotted around a beam
put his neck in the noose
and let out a scarifying scream.

Then she feels herself harden
stone thoughts
stone mouth
stone neck
stone chest
stone limbs
stone heart
calcified flesh and bone
she is a statue.”

Picked Apple has no reaction.
Change thinks stuff it

and becomes himself
young, virile and fresh.
Picked Apple falls hard for him.

© 2017, Paul Brookes (The Wombwell Rainbow)

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We continue with the current recommended read: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder. Left, right or center – American or not – it’s a must read.

LESSON ELEVEN: INVESTIGATE. “Figure things out for yurself. Spend more time with long articles.  Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on the internet is there to harm you.  Learn about sites that investigate propaganda campaigns (some of which come from abroad). Take responsibility for what you communicate with others.” Prof. Snyder,  On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

Go to art, not war.

Poem on …

SUNDAY ANNOUNCEMENTS: Calls for Submissions, Contests, News and Other Information


Opportunity Knocks

THE BeZINE submissions for the May 2017 issues (theme: Honesty and Transparency, the Post-truth Era) should be in by May 10th latest.  Publication date is May 15th. Poetry, essays,fiction and creative nonfiction, art and photography, music (videos), and whatever lends itself to online presentation is welcome for consideration. Please check out a few issues first and the Intro./Mission Statement and Submission Guidelines. Email submissions to bardogroup@gmail.com

GUERNICA, a magazine of global arts and politics welcomes submissions from writers and visual artists, emerging and established, including submissions of short-and-long form fiction, poetry, photography and video.  Details HERE.

HANGING LOOSE PRESS has published some 220 books and 107 issues of its magazine (“10,000 pages of poetry, prose, and art”) since the press was founded in 1966. Details including special submission guidelines for high school students HERE.

TEARS IN THE FENCE, an independent international literary magazine is a triannual British literary journal edited by David Caddy. It is often characterized as “a forward-looking magazine that is not afraid to take risks…. [and that] represents the cutting edge of modern poetry.” Submissions for Tears in the Fence Issue 66 are now being accepted for publication in summer 2017. The editors invite submissions of poetry, prose poems, flash fiction, creative non-fiction, essays, translations, interviews and reviews and seek the unusual, perceptive, risk-taking as well as the imagistic, lived and visionary. Details HERE.

THE NEW VERSE NEWS presents politically progressive poetry on current events and topical issues. “Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at]gmail.com. No simultaneous submissions. Use “Verse News Submission” as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.” As always before submission, I suggest you review The New Verse News before submitting.

NIMROD, International Journal of Prose and Poetry is a publication of the University of Tulsa and welcomes submissions of “high-quality” poetry, short fiction and creative nonfiction. Submission guidelines HERE.

PROLE PAMPHLET COMPETITION is look for collections of no more than 35 pages of poetry. The entry fee is £12 payable by PayPal or cheque. The winner will receive £50 and 15 copies of the pamphlet. Details HERE.


Opportunities Knock

TEARS IN THE FENCE, an independent international literary magazine announced the opening of its second flash fiction competition. Submissions welcome through 27th May 2017. First Prize of £200, Second Prize of £150 and Third Prize of £100. “The winners and other highly commended entries will be published in issue 66.”  Submission fees are: £5 for a single submission, £7.50 for two and £10 for three. Details HERE.

THE NIMROD 39TH LITERARY AWARDS (1) The Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction and (2) The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry are still open but you have to hop to it. The deadline is April 30.  The prizes are $2,000 and publication for fiction and $1,000 and publication for poetry. The entry fee is $20. Details HERE.

ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE for Fiction with IMPACT is open for submissions through December 31, 2017. a $35,000 annual award for an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.  The submission guidelines are quite detailed.


  • P.C. VANDALL for the publication of Romeo, Romeo, WTF? in the spring issue of The Mayaard
  • SHARON GARIEPY FRYE for being selected as the new writer in residence at the Writers Colony in Eureka Spings. Sharon’s most recent collection, Blue Lamentation, was just published and is available for purchase HERE. Sharon was featured on this site as American She-Poet #12. You can read her interview and sample her poems HERE.
  • REUBEN WOOLLEY for being invited to and attending the Marrakech 4th International Poetry Festival. You can sample Reuben’s collections and sample his poetry HERE.


ASPEN SUMMER WORDS LITERARY FESTIVAL & WRITING RETREAT is “a program of the Harman-Eisner Program in the Arts, presents the Aspen Summer Words Writing Retreat and Literary Festival, a five-day celebration of words and ideas, now in its 34th year. This year’s festival flies under the banner “Crossroads: A Literary Intersection of the American South” … Details HERE.


  • The ASSOCIATION OF LITERARY SCHOLARS, CRITICS AND WRITERS (ALSCW) announced today that the co-winners of the 2016 Meringoff Prize for Poetry: Gregory Fraser for Nothing But a Few Bare Trees and Matthew Buckley Smith for Object Permanence. The winning poems will be published in an upcoming issue of either Literary Matters or Literary Imagination. The winners will each also receive $1,000 and a commemorative plaque.
  • Robert M. Pirsig, Author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintance died yesterday at 88 years. You can read his New York Times obit HERE.
  • USING HAIKU, more than 200 poets pay tribute to Obama, DeNeen L. Brown, The Washington Post


The recommended read: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder. Left, right or center – American or not – it’s a must read.

THE WORDPLAY SHOP: books, tools and supplies for poets, writers and readers