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A Season and a Day

July 2017

Before you read the rest of this prompt, I suggest you listen to Robert Hayden read his poem "Those Winter Sundays."

Looking at the poem on the page, you can see that "Those Winter Sundays" is a kind of sonnet of a Sunday morning ritual of making a fire to warm the house. It has been done so many times that the son probably never thought about it then. He is not alone in his inattention or in being with his father, but "no one ever thanked him."

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

As the haiku poets know so well, the names of the seasons suggest many different things. Winter has been used symbolically to represent death, old age, hardship and endings. But writers have also used it in opposite ways - the pure, white snow s a blanket, a time of rest before renewal.

Hayden's winter is hard. His father works hard all week, but still has to get up early to warm the house before he wakes his son. It's a kind gesture, but the house also contains chronic angers that the warming fire can't dispel.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house

The days of the week have also taken on characteristics. Some are cliches by now - the drudgery of back to school and work Monday mornings, the freedom of Friday evenings, or the rest of a Saturday. To some a Sunday morning might suggest church, and to someone else it is a big breakfast or brunch. We made Wednesday into a Hump Day, a mid-week peak that we needed to get over.

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Those last two lines are my favorites. They are an unrhymed couplet to close the sonnet. They are the clincher, the lesson learned only years later.

This is a poem that is often anthologized and frequently taught. There is a guide to the poem online if you want a short lesson.

In these lazy days of summer, our July prompt is very simple. Begin with a title that must contain minimally a season and a day of the week. Your title might be as plain as "Spring Saturday" or as detailed as "Waking at 3 a.m. on the Last Sunday of Summer." Where your poem goes from there is yet to be known.

For more on our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.



No more wakeups for work.
Weekdays are all weekends
though the rest of this world
continues its 5 and 2 dance
though this place is summer
365 days a year.
It's sad.
They don't notice that they
don't need to wear socks to bed
or pull up a blanket to their face,
that bare feet are warm
on the morning wood floor,
and the tub and tile also warm
to the touch of bare skin.
I moved
south and west of my angry old life
and the waves are enough clock
and calendar to mark my life.

Lianna Wright


Not the third Thursday
Not the one with laden plates
Open mouths and intentions

Her belly doesn’t know
The word abundant
Any day of any week

She sits on a torn blanket
Back against a white wall
At the bank in the middle of town

I wonder her name and age
Want to sit with her to know
But reasons don’t make sense

Things happen:
Cords snap and glass breaks
It’s a Thursday in November

Tomorrow another cold Friday
Then December will arrive
With fog, wind, rain, darkness

Before you know it’s a new year
Hunger doesn’t follow a calendar
And, I still don’t know her name

Patty Joslyn


The cold burn of arctic air, hard for skin
and nose to breath, hard to think clearly. When
did you leave? You
exit while winter’s demolishing trespass

changes all, with icy eyes that sit in judgement of
our radio sled parade.

Tired, fatigued people, always
feeling so crushed, under
extra clothes, the constant
contemptuous parceling of snow
so ceaseless, no wonder folks stay so confused
throughout winter, such as I do myself
plodding through memories, looking for
reasons for our split.

An ice sculpture world shaped by fingers of the wind,
chilling and numbing, bringing shivers of them within whom blood flows,
causing inadequate footing, for walks,
for pairings

ice reconfigured
what we were, or did you do that?

Linda Imbler


Two turtles and a duck
sunning themselves on the gray rock:
interspecies cooperation

A scarlet tanager winging by
quickest flash of tangerine,
then gone

My son, jogging
His second lap
(I'm on my first),

Brushes past me
flashes a smile,
Hey Mom! Then he's gone.

Nancy Gerber


At dawn, a bird call – from near
or farther distance. Sharp, insistent,
monotone. Alarm or
announcement repeated at quick
intervals. From the back porch it seems
to come from south, far side
of house – no, from the north. No,
that’s an answer-call.
Three dark birds flying high
over oaks. Crows? morning summons
to congregation? a call to arms?
Every other bird is silent.
Faint streak of sunrise in hesitant
eastern clouds. No other
outward sign. Crows diagnosing
the day by poll and survey
of their peers? Silence.
Success or at least consensus
loses the better part. It was mystery
passage of unnamed birds
from unknown lands,
omen of a Sunday morning.

Taylor Graham


The day before our moving sale,
We packed our son’s collectible Star Wars figures
And shipped them off to Denver
Where he works as an engineer.

In his study, he plans to set up the Millennium Falcon
He had played with as a child,
With his figures of Han and Luke and Leia
Along with Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO,
Capturing that moment they are about to jump to light speed
And escape Darth Vader and the Death Star.

The only figurines we had left for the sale were a complete crèche
That we hadn’t used in years.
Three times through the day, we reduced the price;
But nobody had either the need or the space for another tired Joseph
Or a wistful Mary stooping over the disproportionate babe,
Even if they were handcrafted in Sicily
And offered at one-tenth the purchase price.

The following Monday,
We donated them to the Salvation Army
For a tax write off.

Ron Yazinski


Sunday mornings
the one held our traditions
perhaps the Monday mornings
before the hot summer sun rises
we looking in mirrors hoping
the day that passed, hadn't
with the wind coming from
where you were going
but it passed and so did you
and you hadn't wanted
I still feel the firmness of your hold
lingering like the hangover
the one that came from a bet
you died first, I drink at the cemetery
reading too much into the last time you smiled at me
our favourite roses too smiling wickedly in your hands
purple, red, yellow, pink, white
and if I'd died first
you'll wear my disgrace
perhaps both our disgraces
and wash them by the near lake
I'd never want them heating you too much

Only Sunday mornings
and we don't forget the previous mornings
our day of youngster
I will miss you one day I'd said
I'd touched a lawn that was wet with early morning dew
and I hadn't known
I would forget our memories
and only carry yours
where you wore white
beside a leafy tree
I try not to cry
I hadn't known
I'd cancel our summer Sunday mornings
before and after mourning

Sia Morweng


I tell the dog to keep an eye
on my snoring gopher
while I silly sally forth -
to market to market - dizzy
with leftover essence of spring
and just Neruda to the nines.

All the vegetables strike me
as potently erotic - especially the bulbous
fennel and curly bits at the bottoms
of leeks – and now this is the
Saturday - once every in four weeks -
when the mattress man is there – and
I smile (and probably stare) recalling
that time in Paris – near la foire du trône –
when you threw me on a mattress in
another street market and kissed me
and there wasn’t a soul among the onlookers
who was not your accomplice –
mine too, actually, although I did blush.

This morning I try not to rush; and I don’t even
mind the folks gathered in fours and blocking
passage or the oblivious idiots who shop with
their poor smell-addled dogs. Today I love
everybody, determined to find the good
strawberries – the tiny ones – remember?

That first morning in the first hotel
when you snuck out while I showered
to wrest victuals from some vendor,
and you were my plumèd knight
(to whom I'd always surrender)
and all you could drum up were
strawberries - and they were
so ripe they perfumed the
room for two whole days.

That red scent is the one
I want - to wake you with -
even before

Timea Deinhardt


Crepe Myrtles in
             & white
                   & lavender
droop over
             & drives
                   & patios.
Everything sags,
             & bark
                   & dust
build on
             & lots
                   & drains.
Malaise withers
             & trunks
                   & grass
under unwashed skies,
             & silent
                   & alone.
All expectant,
empty as old pots,
             & dark
                   & waiting.

Robert Miller


We were so very young back then
Paint not yet dry
That new car smell of youth
Unblemished by time’s appetite
For etching lines in faces
Punching holes in dreams

Friday nights we’d head for town
A full week’s pay stuffed in our jeans
We drank, shot pool and trolled for girls
In filthy, funky smoke-filled Bars
Or from our cars
Out on the crowded Boulevard

On those cool August nights
We knew nothing of hot factory floors,
Wars of any type or temperature
Nothing of our father’s sleepless nights
Our mother’s endless days
We floated in a pink and purple haze

Then, autumn came with its cold nights
Barelegged girls went back to school
Our parents’ fights got louder
The cow dried up
The Mill shut down
The days got even harder

Winter caught us by surprise
Crops rotting in the fields
Wood ready to be split but wet
With disrespectful snow
Deer too gaunt to recognize
Dogs too cold to go outside and hunt

Then, just when we had lost all hope
Spring arrived to save our hides
The Sun came out; the ice broke up
Plants we feared had died turned green before our eyes
July found us older by a year
But ready for another round of... summer Friday nights

Frank Kelly


It was the ides of November
Eight days after the death of Eleanor Roosevelt
and the very day that Muhammad Ali, then still known as Cassius Clay,
knocked out Archie “The Old Mongoose” Moore
It was a Thursday, and it is said that Thursday’s child has far to go
but my baby sister didn’t get very far at all

Mom was thirty-seven and dad was forty-nine
when their first child together entered this world a stillborn
the birth cord around her little neck
Nine months in the making, perfectly formed
A nurse said she had beautiful black hair
That’s all my mom knows of her second daughter
She didn’t see her, hold her or kiss her
There would be no pictures, no inky footprints
No counting of fingers and toes, no hello nor goodbye
Mom said the undertaker named her baby Henrietta
after herself and her grandmother
Mom said it’s just how things were done back then

Months earlier, friends had thrown a baby shower
Grandma didn’t believe in such things
so she didn't attend
All those gifts opened and waiting
There when mom and dad got home
Some given away, some saved
Hope in the midst of heartbreak
or an unwillingness to let go
of all that was left

Laid to rest in the same earth
as my mother’s grandmother and
and mom's eighteen month old brother Francis
who died of dysentery in the early 1920s
Because grandma had no money for a doctor
and oatmeal seemed like a good remedy
It has always comforted my mother
knowing her baby is there with them both
Of course life goes on and it did
No matter - who and how, young or old
Known and unknown

One day mom was at the front window
"Congratulations, you must have had the baby by now"
A neighbor called up to her
The death of a child does not make for light chit chat
Waving back, mom just nodded and smiled
Sparing another at her own expense - but that's mom
I imagine too that she did not want to utter those words
to have to say them one more time
or maybe for that brief moment she just wanted to pretend
that there was no reason to do so

Exactly one week later it would be Thanksgiving
I wonder whether my parents ate turkey and pie
And if the thanks on their tongues tasted as cold and bitter
as the next day's cranberry sauce
or as hollow and empty as they themselves now felt
Their sorrow fresh and raw
And as heavy and evident as my mother's still swollen belly
And while they ate or didn't eat, elsewhere others ate and gathered
Lovers toasted and children played and people paraded
and they laughed and talked and sang to radios and records
The year's smash hit - Big Girls Don’t Cry

On TV - Christmas commercials for the Chatty Cathy doll and rainbow-colored Fischer Price stacking rings
Childhood toys my sister would have played with had she a childhood
That year would kick off the great Jetsons and Hanna Barbera cartoons
and the publishing of books her older sister Cathy may have read to her:
books by Ezra Jack Keats, Cleary, Sendak, Seuss, and L’Engle

The world too had its own struggles
Russian missiles in Cuba; desegregation issues in the south;
The US in Vietnam; Chinese refugees expelled from Hong Kong
Everything old ... is future history
The following November it seemed the world had stopped once again
Not just for our family this time but for all Americans
And all would recall where they were when it did
Six years later came the anti-war protesters' “March against Death”
Lives taken, saved, changed, broken, and lives unlived – but all of matter
My sister, forever unknown to us and the world - and it unknown to her

Born in the year of the tiger, the water sign of Scorpio
The element under which her mom and two of her sisters were born
A life halted in the same womb in which I’d begin to thrive nine months later
And another sister four months after my own exit from one world into another
One spring, one summer child - both of us robust and dark haired

Both the Byrds and the good book tell us
that for all a time and season and purpose
you were like the trees that shed their leaves that fall
Leaves whose purpose was to nourish other plants
Not just for we two who followed
but for all those you brought together
In joy, and in sorrow
A child unknown but not unremembered
A child unknown but not unloved
A child who was herself this very gift
Perhaps not unknown after all

But because
you were a child and not a tree
And because
you were and were not
I will still mourn you
I will still wonder all that might have been
For you - "the baby that mom lost"
I will still want to say your name
A name - chosen and given by our parents
Because you were
special and loved
Because it is the one thing they could have given you
For even those with nothing have a name
And I would shout it out into the universe
Because you were
And I will long to do so until I am no longer
And maybe then you can tell me that it's all right

Terri J. Guttilla