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Lost and Found

March 2020

I was reading Jane Hirshfield's new book of poems, Ledger (from Alfred A. Knopf) and I also saw and heard one of the poems on The Writer's Almanac - "Advice to Myself" - and I immediately identified with-the idea of a computer file that comes up blank. Not only have I come across computer files that are empty or just don't make any sense to me currently, but I also have more than a few "poems" that I started in a document and when I looked back at them weeks or months later my reaction is "Where was I going with this?"

Perhaps this is just a sign of aging, along with the other lost things unpoetic - phone numbers, people's names, books read and movies seen and lots of events. All of those seem trivial compared with the things we lose and don't find.

Carl Sandburg was "Lost" quite literally "Desolate and lone / All night long on the lake."

When Stephen Dobyns was "Lost," he asked, "Where had wrong turns been made?"

For Ellen Bass, it's a "Lost Dog." 

But for Lucille Clifton, it is a very serious "the lost baby poem."

Lucyna Prostko claims that "Nothing Is Lost."

I believe that most of us hope that when something is lost, it will eventually be found.

Ron Padgett wrote a poem that said that "Man has lost his gods" but later wrote in "Lost and Found" and wondered "What did I mean?"

John Milton thought that it was paradise that was lost, but then he wrote Paradise Regained.

But back to Jane's poem that started this prompt. What appealed to me in that short poem was the idea that things lost are often not found. For your writing this month, we are looking for poems about things lost - and are perhaps found  - or perhaps not.

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


Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Perhaps I should never have expected the path
to be straight or lit lit since it had never been before.
It's uncharted territory, journey without charts or maps,
but I still navigate because I must with my hands outstretched,
touching obstacles and guideposts with the same hope
and trying to gather the twilight into a lantern to hold forward.

Pamela Milne


Between a weather forecast that turned out wrong
And a song I've since forgotten,
Came the news of their disaster.
So many.
If I should live to be a thousand,
I should not know so many.
I would be more upset,
If my book by Camus were lost.

Ron Yazinski


I'm not quite certain
I've drawn a single line
or a double
but then I might blink a bit
get a few tears in and
it all becomes clear
for a moment or two
I am suddenly reminded of
a long ago work friend
she described her mind that way
knew she had been better
better at everything
but somehow
the sharpness had escaped
over the years
she looked so lost
almost desperate
as she tried to hang on
staked her claim on
getting back to who she was

they came suddenly
without a word
a few weeks later
packed up her things
from her desk
and I never knew
what became of old Lois
but in some darker moments
I wonder
if it's my turn

Corwin Black


Lost days
Found moments
And pieces of seaglass

All last Tuesday we soaked in the sun
And salt water
Came home with seaweed between our toes
Salt in our eyes

I collected small shards of pottery
And polished golden stones
We called them amber

The damp pebbles left my pockets wet
Later, you told me you might not be able to love me any more

In a flash I lost my breath, my mind, my heart

All this before you dropped to your knees
And asked me to marry you

Patty Joslyn


I ache for the days of solidity,
When I took for granted all my measures of peace.
If I smiled upon another, there they were, my same.
A future generation’s plans felt like good seeds
needing only to be dropped into fertile soil.
And scales balanced with common weight.

I miss days of winter,
When snow lingered long on the ground,
and the joy of braving the elements,
stinging cheeks returning to warmth before a fire.
My eyes burn with constant tears.
The fires are everywhere now.

It takes five million individual snowflakes
to make one snowman,
many billions more to make snow angels.
When they all melt, the snow crystals
jagged edges rounding off, softening,
they become one again.

I am lying on the ground,
the curious, discerning stars above me,
arms flailing, and yes, failing to fly.
I am making an earth angel.
I do not know how long she will last,
but she will not melt.

Anita Sanz


After the shock has dimmed a bit
like the twilit sky,
everything gains weight.

Your toothbrush turns to lead; your bar
of shower soap transforms to stone.
Your coffee mug is suddenly
a carillon bell turned upside down.

At work, the well-intentioned words
of colleagues hit the ground
like hail. Your concentration,
grown fat from a diet of wretchedness,
requires a cane to put one foot
in front of the other. A rhino
sits on your memory, and your energy,
once as fleet as a cheetah,
tumbles into a vat of cement.

Only your sleep loses pound after pound
until its clothes grow much too large
and flap in the random gusts of your grief.

Susan Spaeth Cherry


My husband tells a story
how as a small child
within a crowd of beachgoers
he became separated from his mom
and how frightened he was
and how he can still recall that fear

They say all who wander are not lost
I say small dogs and children excluded
most of us are pretty damned lost
The wandering an unintended happenstance
Myself included in this members only
group of Dante-esque travelers
No internal GPS device present at birth
or later acquired
Like a squirrel who can’t find her way back to her stores
or a homing pigeon who can’t quite home in
I know it and my subconscious knows it
And you can’t lie to your subconscious

I often dream of being lost
Unlike Alice, it is no adventure, no wonderland
I am no cool queen of the pinafores
Me at the bottom of a rabbit hole?
Let the clawing and scratching ensue
Let the hysterics and horrific wailing begin
Amidst the strange and unknown
I’ve never felt particularly comfortable
It took me awhile to get right with the Grinch
I’m still working on Heffalumps and Woozles

Cut to “the dream”
It follows the same script
I am in the city- which city? My city
It is dark - even when it is day- it is dark
The sidewalks slick with rain
The few people about- dark shadowy characters
walking quickly, heads down
Gotham city in shades of black
The threat of menace in the air
but no superheroes to be found – old school or new

I am late and unsure of my destination
And when I do know it - I cannot find it
Visions of a job past -check
Ongoing quest to find where I should be
and ultimately who I am - check
How does one give one’s self over to being lost?

As a boy my cousin would intentionally get onto the wrong trains
to see where it would take him, to make his trip more interesting
- he welcomed the unknown
I wish I knew how to embrace such things
But, need I lose myself to find the who that precedes the “I am”?
As Alice herself asked “Who in the world am I? Ahh, that’s the great puzzle”

But I am not Alice and Alice is not me
And though the world grows more curiouser and curiouser
I will live my life trying to avoid rabbit holes
and people madder than myself
I don’t need to find all the missing pieces
I just want to put and keep together what there is
- Incompletely finished and wholly recognizable

Terri J. Guttilla


I came across an old journal from
1973. As I thumbed through the
fragile, yellow pages, I winced,
giggled, but mostly I was puzzled by
the pages where I wrote only the words
I don't have a clue as to what happened
on those days.

I do remember the surprise birthday party my
roomies threw for me. Boone's Farm apple wine,
cheese doodles, listening to Grand Funk Railroad
on the Victrola. Mostly I remember how it was
back then. No money, no worries, nothing to
tie me down. Plenty to write home about.
The kind of memories that endure for a
lifetime. Maybe longer than that.

Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello

(a painting by Sir Frederick Leighton)

Nymph-like, the Victorian muse
Flanked by gold ribbed columns
Lay curled up on a marble bench,
Slipping languorously into
What is to be
Her one hundred and
Twenty-fifth year of slumber.

Her cascading hazel tresses
And luscious folds of her
Apricot shift
Have remained unruffled
In spite of the flux
Beyond the frame;
Decades of snuffed out obscurity
From attic to junk shop
To gallery
And eventually stumbling
Into hands which cradled her like
A pearl of rare essence,
Inducting her into the ranks
Of the Museo de Arte de Ponce
Where she evolved into
A ubiquitous cultural icon
Amongst the locals,
Her reignited illumination wooing
Visitors far beyond the Caribbean.

The trends and opinions
Of the art world can resume
In their capricious ways
Whilst she stays centred
In her incandescent bliss,
Basking in the surety that
The sun overlooking the
Glistening Mediterranean sea behind
Would never set on her.

Ellen Chia


She flung aside a hallowed legacy
Adventure her glib guide, old age could wait
Now mourns a lost romantic destiny

When a vivacious youth was hers to own
Emboldened by her choices, mocked their weight
She flung aside a hallowed legacy

Lured by quaint music of exotic tone
A pure white land to banish dreary fate
Now mourns a lost romantic destiny

She braved a rougher beauty on her own
Four laughing clawing children under eight
She flung aside a hallowed legacy

As years unravel dreaming, all alone
With skulking banal ugliness, too late
Now mourns a lost romantic destiny

A single limpid tear escapes bruised bone
Regret now firmly planted at the gate
She flung aside a hallowed legacy
Now mourns a lost romantic destiny.

Niesje Hees

For My Sister

You slipped away one morning
but no one noticed,

your going soft as the azalea blooms
outside your window,

passing into the spring air as quietly as mist
rising from the pond you knew as a child,

leaving a life only you could fathom,

grown smaller and smaller as year
after year you grew downward until,

a child again, they fed you, changed
your diapers, combed your hair,

the light dwindling from your eyes,
sitting in silence,

all your focus on the evening star.

Robert Miller


My mother never had that much
The little that she had
She'd give away
She sacrificed her life for others
Put their needs before her own
I didn't see it at the time
Angry and confused
I acted out
By nearly flunking out of school
Stealing cars
Smoking dope
Spending time in bars
In return
My Timex wearing Mom
Bought me a gold Omega watch
Inscribed with my initials ...
A High School graduation gift
I later lost
Swimming in a Mississippi pond
Mother's dead and gone
Now, I own a Rolex
Sitting in a safe deposit box
That I'd trade for that Omega
In a heartbeat

Frank Kelly


My words
Stolen sounds
Consonants vowels
You took them
You take them
When you rattle on
Lie cheat and steal
Shows you're not the big saviour
A thin crown you wear
You're in need
Just like everyone here
That dark magic
Has an omnipresence over us
You may not know
But it does
And they do
Knows it
That you need the stuff
The only reason you wake up
Every silent morning
Is because
You don't die
Like something lost
That may never
Be found

Lee Burke González


Did we just lose Spring?
Or is Earth rejoicing,
Breathing properly
Under a yellowing moon?

Venues, zoos, hotels - closed!
Football, golf - terminated!
Quarantining numbers
Kills xeroxing.

Robert Best