Books for Poets | Mailing List | Copyrights | About Us




This prompt featured two poems By Cornelius Eady: I'm A Fool To Love You  (from Autobiography of a Jukebox which you can listen to Eady read) and One Kind Favor (from You Don't Miss Your Water)

"One Kind Favor" is a prose poem and is not really an elegy for his father as much as the poem is an attempt to reconcile father and son, past and present.

"I'm A Fool To Love You" deals with mother and father, and we might consider it a poem of ancestry. It seems that ancestry comes into our minds most when we are confronted with the death of our parents and grandparents or the birth of our own child. In an odd twist of mental time travel, we might look to those before us to see our own future, as we might look to our child and see our own past.

This prompt asked poets to write a poem of ancestry that looks to those before you as a way of reflecting on yourself. As a starting point you might select an object (a piece of clothing, jewelry or artifact) that was passed on to you, or a quality that you or others have identified as being similar to an ancestor. Though Eady's two poems deal with death and painful memories, note that they end with "... a healing" and "...a desire to fix things." Your poem might easily be a celebration of those who preceded you, or those for whom you will be the ancestor.

For more on this prompt and others, visit the Poets Online blog.


This would be the day, the place
rife with monuments to the dead,
wilted flowers draped on tombstones,
a few plastic pieces still erect
but sadly faded nonetheless.
This would be the day
we'd visit his grave.
Each of fifteen years.
Not one day missed.
My mother saw to it.
She was like that
about the only man
she ever knew or loved.
And that it was not
all returned in kind
she would not allow.
Others thought otherwise
but no one said.
It wouldn't have mattered.
She clung to self-deception
like true belief
"The dead cannot be judged",
she'd say, at his grave,
as though to give herself away,
that we might sense the pain
in such willful devotion.
Years have passed.
She lies beside him
in eternal embrace..
I imagine her,
that yearning smile for him,
her head bent
searching the hollow of his shoulder
to nestle there
in the masculine fragrance
of his sweat.
Years have passed  for me,
but not erased
the  massive hand that I still see,
its half graying hairs
gleaming in lamplight,
The arc of it
searing the air
then finding its object
on her turned cheek.
The scream stifled
the image recedes.
The shadows flow in.
My mother would say
he was a hard-working man.
I try to think of that,
every day of the year.

Gaetana Cannavo


Over dinner (rigatoni in a sauce) my daughter
speaks of our spiritual natures.  She tells me
it comforts her to think of being humble.
I tell her she has always been a conscious being,
that I witnessed her wet unfolding in a mirror
and saw at once how she took in the topography
of a world where what she sees is seen for good.
Earlier, driving into Newark, I’d been thinking
about all the injustice in the world and how
some people never get loved, or brought things.
I like the road by the river, how it's flat and how it twists
just the same, and the long garages with their pleated
metal doors, all manner of graffiti. The train station entrance
is a cluttered thing, cops blipping cars that linger past
the 3 minute wait,  people coming and going
in the rain-washed light, faces beautiful as cameos.
I'm all locked in and waiting, happy to be alive,
my car white and steaming.  I expect elves
or a fairy queen to emerge, Bottom, full of dreams
and seraphim: this one, for example, into haberdashery
and wearing wingtips, this one radiant as gold leaf,
pink-winged and furious, ready to cast someone, anyone,
out of any garden.  My daughter when she comes is on fire
and honing in, fizzing like a Giotto angel.  I think how
I would open myself up for her again if I needed to,
split my body wide enough to carry her anywhere
she wanted, my whole circumference sole to crown,
lay her flat inside me, leg in leg, this being
the thing I might do best: contain the grief,
and whatever else might happen.

Mary DeBow

a lyric

Were I, were I to dance in the highlands
upon the graves of bitter ancestry,
would ye snatch the pennies from angry hands
or see the child that weeps inside of me?
Blood thinned of blue for bastard wealth to claim,
among these sacred stones that bear my name.
Come close and look upon these naked feet,
then rub upon the beads that turn to dust,
while coveting this grace amid deceit
of learnèd youth who lettered in mistrust.
Believing not in artful happenstance,
'tis pride that makes the rebel in me dance.
Yolanda Gallardo


There was this doll in my grandmother's house we all
feared--a baby doll which no one ever cradled.
Mom called it Eisenhower.  There was a clear resemblance.
Its old man baby face was frozen in a screwed-up scream-
tiny bowed mouth wide open, eyes squinting blind.
Eisenhower hid in the smallest back bedroom;
the one with the severe slant of ceiling,
grapevines creeping up the wallpaper behind
dark dressers, their marble tops like tombstones.
He stalked my nightmares with his squashed cloth body--
harder rubber limbs dangling, partially severed-- deadly weapons.
When my sons were babies, their newborn cries drove terror
through the deep of sleepless nights.  I never turned the light on
when I came into their room.  I knew that in their cribs I'd find
my own baby boys wearing Eisenhower's eyes.

Svea Barrett-Tarleton

young and innocent
I adored
and feared you both
later in life
I despised you
and your values
that were seemingly
like me
until I found
and grew to know
and love
and appreciate
all you did for me
sacrificed for me
but too late
to tell you
in words
to you

Matthew Brady


In a boxcar apartment things happen
all at once. Agnes sits at the kitchen table,
looking at the Mirror. Headlights from a passing
bus seep through venetian blinds.
"Make Believe Ballroom" fades
in and out on the Motorola.
It’s too hot to sleep. On the front stoop
neighbors talk. “Did ja see
Martyat the Gates?” In a boxcar apartment
one room folds into another.
A chair scrapes across the kitchen floor.
My father tosses in bed. A Zero appears
above his head like a paper lantern,
I imagine, rising sun painted on its sides,
“Look out, look out, look out,”
he screams. Guns clatter.
No matter how loud my father yells,
the Zero makes its run, seeks out
Guiterrez, a deck hand whose head bursts
before the sound of gunfire rattles in his ears,
screams back into the sky, leaving
faint talk of neighbors, the sound of
departing engines.

Daniel Spinella


Cut me.  Through the bark and down into the pinkish pulp.
A hundred growing round concentric rings.
Some wide when years were fat upon the farm,
some narrow to show the leanness of a trip across the sea
from Poland to the golden land of Delaware
where a trolley conductor's uniform lay waiting
for the farmer, the drinker, the spider-monkey man.
Tap me.  I'll run with sugared sweetness,
every drop of sap a blood or whisky
reservoir I've kept contained all these years.
From this wood, they whittled out guitars
to set the stove-hot kitchen nights ablaze.
From this lumber they raised up barns and houses
where viruses raged in the fevered heads of children
and dreams played out false fortunes in the sleep of married men.
From these branches they cut switches
used to redden the thighs of prankish boys.
From this bole they sawed out caskets
buried deep within someone else's earth.
And now I go to blossom and from blossom into seed.
Welcome, child:  another ring to grow around my trunk,
your soft grain a blessing and a buffer to my core.
Take from my roots what nourishment you can
for the days when these great spreading limbs go bare
and bleak skies send winds that will reach you first.

R.G. Evans


Not your eyes or your hair
(mine blonde and blue)
not your temper or sarcasm
(I hold it in and cry)
not your quick way with math
or with women
(I count my lovers on one hand)
It seems like someone else
fathered me. (As I had imagined
late at night, covers pulled over my head)
Did mother dream my dream somehow -
my thoughts going through the bedroom wall-
or was I hearing hers
He's not your father.
The secret shared,
held close beneath our pillows,
whispered in our sleep.

Pamela Milne 


My Ancestors were weeds, does it sound strange?
My ancestors were weeds and I'm proud of it
They were the caulking between the planks
On those little English ships
There's no Jolly Tars in my lineage, no hearts of oak in my seed
Just weeds, caulking, rope.

Greg Martin


first saw him standing silent
dark brown forlorn
left hand resting on drum
right hand raised
    in salute?
    shield the nonexistent sun?
    wipe a sweat-stained brow?
    in blessing?
no longer proudly
hiding under sorrow -
    second floor corner
    of a country antique
    and curio shop
staring at me
dark brooding eyes
how much for?
that old wooden thing?
twelve bucks
then home
linseed oil
mahogany shine
closer look
dark spots
deep wood grain grime
hot soapy water
sponge and soft scour
look closer now
dental pick
gentle in the crannies
follow the grain
imagine the carver's hand
finding life again
pride restored
a metaphor -
    african man
    brought here for a price
he glows
    my african man
    my cherokee great grandfathers
    my african great grandmother
    my jewish great grandfathers
    my jewish great grandmothers
    my ancestors
glowing in
    african man

David S. Rosenak


I looked down at Grandma
in her coffin.
The casket reminded me
of the story
of a cotton-batten-lined cigar box
- a makeshift incubator
with her tiny, almost-dead baby in it.
Premature, her first daughter
had weighed just a little over a pound
when she came into the world.
Ignoring the panic of her midwife,
new-mother Grandma
got up out of bed,
and placed the baby
in the improvised device
and into her kitchen-range oven .
That baby grew up to be my mother,
who kept the cigar-box story alive
for me to tell my children.
Grandma’s mother came to America
incubating a child
whose birth she would delay
until they were within this nation’s waters.
Therefore, my great uncle arrived
as a full-fledged citizen
of the United States
That same great-grandmother
was coming to this country
because her sister was pregnant
by a Bohemian Prince,
who was footing the bill
for transporting his "mistake"
to the New World.
As enterprising women,
my female ancestors
thus generated their problems
into creative solutions.
When the Civil War was over,
my grandfather
set about fathering seven children.
Finally, baby-weary Grandmother
put her foot down.
Grandfather moved away.
Grandma took over his Business
with many a lost cause to salvage,
my daughters and I
can trace our actions
to the influence
of that ancient cigar-box syndrome,
which saved the life of my mother
to continue the nurture
of enterprising women.
Catherine M. LeGault


the red light pulsing against the wall,
the patrol car outside, stopped,
the policemen in the hallway
struggling with a heavy weight,
the blanket they carried between them
is all I know about my father's situation.
And the years of him
intermittently hospitalized.
I didn't miss him.
I thought dads did that—
They went to hospitals sometimes,
and they came back.
Everyone seemed so relieved when I  started school.
Nobody ever said breakdown.
Nobody told me overdose.
Nobody  ever said anything,
so that when he was finally well I didn't know
that a part of our life was over,
that for another decade he would be
in the bleachers watching
me, his son, the middle-linebacker,
big-guy filling up holes with my face
just like he told me just
like he told me.
For ten years I would do this
and he never missed a game,
and in all those years, Father,
all those years I had a dad,
the alternative was never mentioned.

C. M. Vaughn