Friday, November 20, 2020

 Wrote this on prompts a couple days ago.

It's long and I haven't tidied it up, but...


Time is 07:12, Wednesday November 18th, 2020.

I produced todays prompts from scanning a poetry anthology = “A Poem for Every Day of the Year”, Edited by Allie Esiri.

I rarely just copy a line. Instead I respond to it, or use the line to produce something only vaguely associated.


The idea is to produce “open” phrases or sentences. Ones that make us ask questions or wonder. For example, I had Covid in early March, now have Long-Covid. Many sufferers lose their sense of smell and taste (Point One). Last night while driving, listening to an audio title I heard a book mentioned: Blindness by Jose Scaramago. That gave me the first prompt.

Note how A world without taste can have two meanings.

I start by typing out the numbers 1-25 and I don’t fill them in consecutively. Instead I randomly assign prompts to each block, breaking up any thought sequence or connectivity I may or may not have.


A poem by Jackie Kay mentioned snow. I thought of pure snow and how boys HAVE TO pee on it. That gave me “It is hard to be a boy and not piss in snow.”

Think about that line for a moment. We could actually write about a boy or boys pissing on virgin snow, or maybe it would be a metaphor for male destructiveness or misogyny. 

The idea is images, sounds, “odd-takes” that should trigger many different responses. 

Combinations of these prompts may produce even more interesting stuff.


A Matt Goodfield poem mentioned sheep which gave me (04) “The Sheep are nervous”

Even as I wrote this I was thinking it’s a metaphor for people like Johnson/Cummings talking about “the people”. 

From “Dawn” (Ella Wheeler Wilcox) I read, “Kissed by the languid lips of night” so produced 07 The heavy lips of night.


Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “Letter to N.Y.” opens, “In your next letter I wish you’d say” a line that has previously produced a prompt, and eventually a story. 

This time reading the first stanza it occurred to me it could be seen as stalking. One line was about taking cabs at night and suddenly I had the wild idea of having loads of money and hiring a taxi to take me on a short circular route all day, just so I could see the world changing. 

But the line this time was “How are the plays//what other pleasures are you pursuing?"


This gave me 21 How were the plays? Did you see a play? Which could be used to sound child-like, maybe naïve/foreign, or a bit “stalker”. It would depend on the writer-student, 

on mood, on context and, most importantly, which other prompts s/he chose. 

There isn’t one, but what if there was a prompt about following, or logging movements? Then maybe a stalker story would “spontaneously” come…


Dust of Snow (Robert Frost) has a crow rustle a branch and snow falls. 


This gave me 10 A crow looked at me, a sentence that could be naïve, possibly humorous, or downright creepy. 

Jaqueline Woodson’s poem called “Occasional Poem” has a kid thinking that it’s only January and his birthday month of June seems light years away. 

The following prompt nears zero relation to any line, but lives off the idea: 19 When June is so far off you cry. Again, note this could be the month, or a woman/girl called June.


Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” gave me: 11 I say to you today: one of you will kill me


A thought (I hear MLK's voice) but not something he directly ever said.


16 January gave me “The Burial of Sir John Moore” by Charles Wolfe, who was, apparently a 19th Century priest. 

Byron loved it.


The first line was: Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note, and I immediately thought of 

Four weddings and a Funeral and the poem beginning “Stop all the clocks.”


'Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone'

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, 

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone, 

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum 

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. 


Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead 

Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead, 

Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves, 

Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. 


He was my North, my South, my East and West, 

My working week and my Sunday rest, 

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; 

I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong. 


The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; 

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; 

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood; 

For nothing now can ever come to any good. 


W H Auden



And I half-remembered the line from this other poem

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum 


I thought “the muffled drums” but that felt a bit closed: I ended with 12 The muffled drums, the itching bums, which I don’t much like because “the itching bums” (butt/rear to any Americans reading this…) seems to have the wrong tone.

But heck I produce 25 of these every day, people can drop the second bit or make it “heavy” without too much effort.


I suddenly had a vision of a Welsh Chapel and a young pregnant woman being cast out. This gave me: 03 It is time to drum out the harlot and may have given me, 09 Our starch white collars, heavy hymns



A line by Mary Angelou: “I note the obvious differences” gave me: 08 There are differences, and similarities



A line: “His totem was a carpet snake” gave me, 16 I keep a cobra in my pants



And so it goes… later I read (in a different poem) about snow crunching underfoot.


Then I thought about the young footballer Marcus Rashford who embarrassed the current (awful) Tory government. 

Recently the right-wing press tried to sully his name by pointing out he was rich and invested his money (shock-horror).

Some poem must have prompted me to think of Mark Anthony’s “I come to bury Caesar” etc. and produced 15 They have come to bury Marcus, which could mean many things


This is how word-mining works! I suddenly thought: 13 God made man. The Devil made Tories


17 Tell me where you are going; what you hope to see, may well have come from the could-be-creepy letter previously mentioned.

If so, it’s a good example of breaking up the chain. How were the plays? Did you see a play? Is fairly close 17 and 21, so, in fact, they may have come from different places. 


Wendy Cope’s very short poem begins “My Cat is Dead.” 

My daughter and I swap black humour as I really don’t “get” cats, don’t like them, therefore they always want to snuggle with me. (UGH!) 

I saw “My Cat is Dead.” (Hooray!) and remembered a joke about a man whose wife died from eating poison mushrooms. I wrote 18 My cat ate poisonous mushrooms but then thought about MAGIC mushrooms so wrote, 18 My cat ate poisonous mushrooms, died on the ceiling. 

Will someone write a whacky story or poem? Who knows?



The poem “Colouring in” for some reason reminded me of mixing paint and I remembered how I could never get paint-mixes to make the official colour. This gave me: 22 When I mix red and yellow I get brown which could be taken literally or make a nice metaphor.

A line “The giant trees are bending” gave me 20 Trees bent with guilt


I can no longer recall what gave me 

05 Something slightly longer here, or wide, or deep

06 Every child in grey except the one in pink

23 Sky like a sheet of steel

24 We wander but we are not lost

25 They are watering the street and planting bollard seed



Oh, and the Tories prompt? From “When God made man”…


Ah! 25 came from Letter to NY = “the watered street”.  

23 came from “Occasional Poem” where a line says: “Outside the sky looks like it’s made out of metal.” 

And I think 05 came from a comment I made last night while critiquing. 

Not sure about 06. I think it just came spontaneously, and 

24 (this time) came from February 4th’s poem by JRR Tolkein but I’m sure his line “Not all those who wander are lost” is not quite an original. 


Did Neruda write something like this?



So the finished list washes



01 A world without smells, without taste

02 Sunlight: rolling up the valley

03 It is time to drum out the harlot

04 The sheep are nervous

05 Something slightly longer here, or wide, or deep


06 Every child in grey except the one in pink

07 The heavy lips of night

08 There are differences, and similarities

09 Our starch white collars, heavy hymns

10 A crow looked at me


11 I say to you today: one of you will kill me

12 The muffled drums, the itching bums

13 God made man. The Devil made Tories

14 It is hard to be a boy and not piss in snow

15 They have come to bury Marcus


16 I keep a cobra in my pants

17 Tell me where you are going; what you hope to see

18 My cat ate poisonous mushrooms, died on the ceiling

19 When June is so far off you cry

20 Trees bent with guilt


21 How were the plays? Did you see a play?

22 When I mix red and yellow I get brown

23 Sky like a sheet of steel

24 We wander but we are not lost

25 They are watering the street and planting bollard seed


Consider all my influences here, how many poets read, how many other poems influencing the poets, all the "genetics" of this, then multiply every element by MY mind and then the student-writer's mind.

What is that line about standing on the shoulders of others?


I started writing this (above) 67 minutes ago (after I’d written the prompts).

Please remember that the very act of my talking about this has probably ruined my writing for today. 

Normally everything I write is spontaneous, right-brained, laissez-faire, unthought, non-conscious, serendipitous, “word-drunk”.

I need to shower now, and move the car before I get a ticket. 

Next, (if I can face it) is trying to get the prompts - one or many of them, to trigger a “natural” = spontaneous, right-brained, laissez-faire, unthought, sub-conscious, serendipitous, “drunk” story. Yeah, right!

I seriously doubt it.


1,712 words (so far)


RETURN 09:42


A world without smells, without taste

Something slightly longer here, or wide, or deep

Every child in grey except the one in pink

There are differences, and similarities

It is hard to be a boy and not piss in snow

Tell me where you are going; what you hope to see

When June is so far off you cry

How were the plays? Did you see a play?

They are watering the street and planting bollard seed. 



So I read them all, top to bottom, from bottom to top. I re-order them. I try to hear them rather than read words. But before I do are there any prompts I want to throw away? Yep, the cat one and the cobra one. Then are there prompt that "want to" go together? Do some go together maybe?


The heavy lips of night // Sunlight: rolling up the valley // A crow looked at me // The sheep are nervous // Trees bent with guilt (maybe) // Sky like a sheet of steel


and maybe these could go with Our starch white collars, heavy hymns


The muffled drums, the itching bums // God made man. // The Devil made xxxxx // We wander but we are not lost // I say to you today: one of you will kill me // They have come to bury Marcus? // It is time to drum out the harlot // When I mix red and yellow I get brown


I’m thinking of a backward “backswoods” village, a girl in trouble and the elders are going to run her out of town.. 

Usually, historically the boy/man is never punished and usually the girl just walks away sheepishly.

We all know it's always the female's fault, right?

OK, I can feel a story. PS this is WAY more story than I normally start with.

Just make some coffee and toast and I’ll be off. 

I figure some scene-setting, some scenery, yeah? Get the mood rolling...

Starting at 09:55


Finish time (including many interruptions)   11:42

OK it’s done. Feels rough, something not quite right, but this is a half-decent first draft.




Myfanwy Roberts, Harlot


The heavy lips of night pull back, dawn is coming. Deacon Lewis is getting ready, Idris Powell, organist cracks his fingers and remembers his hymns, the older women wash slowly, and Myfanwy Roberts, the disgraced, wakes, the fear in her gorging. A street away Marc Thomas, he late of Llwyngwril, but of Dinas Mawddwy ten years now, has not slept for one Christian second of the night.

It is Spring and pale gold sunlight rolls up through the valley like God is making his bed. The nervous sheep stir, neither the farmer nor foxes to worry now, not yet. Fat crows on gateposts stare. There are bare trees on the hill, the trees by the river hang heavy with old guilt.


But the sun is not interested in the goings of the chapel. The old women would like the day to be overcast with pale grey looming, a sky of dull steel, but God has made the sky bright blue as if He thinks it’s June.  If you will drum out one of my children, if you durst dare, then by all that is Me, I will make the village pretty and every one of you ugly as the sins you commit.


The four chosen women, each well-washed, dress darkly, each the same, bitter and dried up, different only in the coloured sashes they have been assigned.  They eat a single piece of bread then drink water. They clutch their bibles.

There are no drums, no muffled instruments. The village has only its heavy, dark way, its hymns, abstinence, Lent, and approbation. The village lives by cold looks, by side mutterings, there but for the grace of God never would they go. There is only Myfanwy Roberts, pink where the others are grey, Myfanwy Roberts, village harlot, Myfanwy Roberts, so heavy now, near seven months gone, no longer kept hidden, no longer welcome in this good, this so very good village.


By fifteen minutes before nine, the chapel pews are full. There is not a man or woman dares not spectate. The village men, they try to sit still, but every secret held inside them makes them itch where they cannot scratch, many of the wives too. Beneath their anxious religious arses, the pitch-pine bench rebels. Only the school-children are excused, held captive by Mrs Vaughan-Price, head-teacher, part-English and from Chepstow, so excused the proceedings.


Myfanwy Roberts loved Marc Thomas and Myfanwy Roberts fought back a fair while before she lay down for Marc in the ferns above the village. So many had lain before in a similar way that the place could well have been mapped. William Williams, short pregnancy, 1916; Jeremiah Owen, seven months only, 1917; Bethan Jones daughter to Martha 1918… Martha’s husband in France, but she to Dover for a meeting with him, she said, for he had a week’s leave.

Marc Thomas may have loved Myfany, but he is young. What man, when everywhere is white with snow, does not take it out to piss, and leave his yellow mark?  It is just what young men do, the fault is those young women who tempt them, allow them, who lift their skirts for them and spread their legs, forsaking all that is proper, all that is holy, all pure.


This is what the deacon now bellows. This is what the chapel’s one hundred say is true. This is the way it has always been, this is what is right. The harlot must depart. There is a sudden silence, so sudden stopped of talk that the hall seems to vibrate. An elbow ribs Marc Thomas, there is a sly wink, a low chuckle, man-stuff, and it is then that the world changes.

“NO!” shouts Marc Thomas.


“Who dares to call out in His House?” Deacon Lewis says (as if he didn’t know). 


“Who?” whisper the old sashed women.  Idris Powell, his fingers still poised above the keys hisses, “The lad, he that fornicated with Roberts, Deacon.”


Marc Thomas wants to shout the place down, wants to burn their bibles, but Marc was not made for oratory, in school words always came hard. He is on God’s earth to dry wall, to tend a herd, and to love a little. He wantsto stand up to these hypocrites but he does not have the way with argument. All he shouts when he shouts a second time is, “Over my dying body! You shall not touch Myfanwy Roberts. Me first.”

Before the pew, between the elders’ bench and the Deacon who is raised above the room, Myfanwy, cold inside, reddens. She stands a little taller, speaks.

“I believe in God, Deacon Lewis. God made man as God made sheep and crows and grass and the trees and this valley. But God did not make this Chapel, men did, with good Welsh stone and Blaenau Ffestiniog slate on the roof. Men, did this, and the Devil provided the mortar.

“You wish to cast me out, but I shall not depart the village.  You will have to kill me first. You despise me, try to disgrace me because I loved out of turn? Hah! Half the women of this village did as I have done, we can all count to nine.


“The only difference, Deacon, Ladies, is that they jumped the broom or sang pretty songs in this place, to prettify their arrangements, not for love, not for what is good and what is whole between a man and a woman, but for convenience so they would not need to bring up a child alone or to weekly shop in Dolgellau or to call a plumber when, strangely, Dinas Mawddwy men were always booked up.

“I am staying, and if you cannot like it then you shall lump it, all of you.”


At this Deacon Lewis was thunder, bright red, looking fit to be bursted. Clear now it was that he was about to rain brimstone down upon Myfanwy Roberts, late village harlot, but Marc Thomas (and he was not a small man) was striding to the front. He looked puffed up proud, about to speak or maybe take Myfanwy’s arm. She turned.

“And to be clear, Marc Three-Months-Missing Thomas, my head is above the parapet now, there is going be a lot of firing. You might be expecting, because I’m expecting that it will beasy-street for you, lad, easy for you to get back into where this trouble started, but you’ll be calling on me for a quarter before that happens!”

And with that Myfanwy Roberts, now ex-Chapel, walked from the place, head up, her pretty face burning, Marc Thomas following, slightly behind.


1,083 Words


















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