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December 2021 (reissue)

With the end of 2021, we are shifting our issues a bit. Typically, the issue of new poems posted in any month are ones submitted for the previous month, so we alWAYA seemed a month behind. This issue for December 2021 is actually a reissue of poems that were posted way back in 1998 on the original version of Poets Online. They were offline for a number of years and we have updated the page and are inserting into the issues so that the poems written in December 2021 will appear ad the first issue of 2022.

Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky said, "All of my poems are about history." Select an event or figure in history, or select an object's history for your poem. You can look at some of Pinsky's poems or listen to him reading. The poems we used as models for this prompt were "Ginza Samba" (about the saxophone), "Shirt"and "From The Childhood of Jesus." Listen to Pinsky's introduction to the readings in which he talks about history.

Your poem may want to relate a historical event to current events. Of course, your own life is also history and there may be connections from your own history with the broader history beyond. (We had an issue about personal history.)

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

OCTOBER 12, 1998

I sit down this day to write a poem
and the TV news is on in the background.
I often listen to the TV news like it is the radio.
It rolls past me. History on the move.
But I look up at the screen when I hear a story
about Matthew Shepard,
a gay University of Wyoming student
who was beaten and left for dead outside of Laramie.
The city recalls for me some Western film
with cowboys and gunsligers and violence.
I have never been to Wyoming.
I know no one from the state, but I imagine
it is no longer the old West of TV and movies,
but Matthew's story seems like something
from another time in history.
I have to recognize that this is history
being made and that history is often
about suffering and death.
Today Matthew died.
I hold the remote in my hand.
I want to use the << rewind button
and erase this story from history.
I can't.
I can't even press the power off.
I can't end this.

Pamela Milne


This old man's scattered pleasures are
measured out piecemeal in a cup of last night's
coffee this morning. Warming his hands
against an early fall this morning he

begins again, and will call today yesterday
with a click and a snicker. Wood grained
like a child's map of earlier years in town,
this quiet table top pulls him down into the

uneasy light of his morning, balancing his
memories like warm stones on the bank of
his favorite boy-stream. He cannot recall
how the rim of this heavy cup was chipped.

His face is not scarred.
He has no outstanding features.

This imperfect cup warms his hands now
and brings to mind the girl and the dancing and
the yellow plastic doo-dad he won and gave her
unchaperoned at the State Fair fifty-two years ago.

Brad Bowles


Today is my birthday.
It is the the 263rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar.
There are 103 days remaining until the end of the year.
The almanac tells me that it is also the birthday of William Golding,
British novelist, playwright, and young poet.
A Nobel Prize laureate, best remembered for Lord of the Flies,
a novel that I - and perhaps you too - had to read in school
which might have been appropriate since it is about schoolboys
stranded on an uninhabited island.
"There aren’t any grownups. We shall have to look after ourselves."
I fantasized about being on an unihabited island in my school days
but not with my classmates. Maybe with a friend or two.
Maybe with a girl I liked who would have no opportunity to leave
and would be almost required to like or love me to survive.
Our English teacher wrote things like "self-goverance, groupthink,
individuality, morality" on the blackboard but I was imagining Elizabeth
and I sitting naked in a hut on a beach.
"I'm frightened. Of us," I said to her, quoting the novel.
I looked across at her in the row of seats beside me
staring at her notebook, the novel open in her left hand,
me trying to see her without her dress staring at me
sitting lost just out of reach with my finger on a line from the book
"He lost himself in a maze of thoughts that were rendered vague
by his lack of words to express them."

Charles Michaels


You were happy to get a "B" in shop class.
Happier still to win the 1950 Christmas Talent Show,
even though they spelled your name wrong-
Prestly - in the program.
You could smirk at the bullies in the bathroom
who threatened to shove your head in the toilet.
Lansky Brothers on Beale Street -
where the Negro musicians bought clothing -
is gone now. Things change.
Your high school is a junior high -
but on summer breakfrom classrooms,
you would spend $3.98 to record “My Happiness”
at Sun Records on a hot day in July 1953,
and three years later ride your Harley
on Audubon Drive, smile and laugh,
and for $40,000 buy Graceland,
rev the Harley’s engine,
shove all their heads in the toilet.

Ken Ronkowitz