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March 2018

Our prompt comes directly from our featured poet, Catherine "Cat" Doty.  Her title poem from Momentum (CavanKerry Press Ltd.) is our model and she advises you to: 
"Hold close to you any warning against certain behaviors and their consequences. Do the bad thing, and let the worse thing happen, in glorious detail.  Poke your eye out with a stick, have a watermelon grow in your stomach, let the boogie man get you, spend your life in sin and misery in the House of the Rising Sun, let your babies grow up to be cowboys, go blind, get worms from nose-picking, pull a face and stay that way forever, step on a crack & break your mother's back..."

Tell us of your bad behavior, past or present, and how the momentum of an action ended, for better or worse.

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


I was a tanker, and you were a loving tugboat 
but I just kept moving on 
Now I'm adrift and you'll soon be out of sight, 
I blame it on my name, Momentum 
I'll keep on floating, and I may never sink 
but honey that don't keep me warm 
Could've been safe in your sheltering wake, 
instead I'm headed for a perfect storm

I lost my anchor a few fathoms back
and I'm trailing a thick black band of oil
Burnt my maps and charts; I can't find the stars
Don't know how to reach your nourishing soil
Waves crash and tremble, and break upon the deck, 
filled with clutching seaweed and bones of the dead 
Water floods the pump room, swirls around my legs
gulls wheel and circle, complaining overhead

I'll fight the scurvy, the thirst, and the raging wind 
against the ocean's bleakest symphony
I'll weather it all and hope to see it through 
to an honest slow motion epiphany
Maybe make it to the Galapagos Islands, 
and run this vagrant tanker aground 
Spend my days with the lizards and penguins, 
and lament the fact that you're not around

I should've followed your tugboat to harbor 
and laid down in your loving arms
Instead, I'm roaming these oceans alone, 
caught inside a mournful sailor's song
Now when a tear runs down my sad gray hull 
I've no doubt about who's to blame 
I blame this captain and his rudderless ship, 
but mostly my maritime name

Robert Stribley


Did I start a war?
Did I throw our ball in traffic and
Make my baby brother get it?
Did I do something bad?

Forward and back.
Forward and back.
I swing forward and back, on an exercise rope stretching from each hand.
Momentum moves me on.
Good actions, bad actions,
Momentum moves them on.
Did I do something bad? It was an accident. I let go of a rope.
The motion stayed with the other—
The laws of physics rule—not morality—not ethics.
Across the room I fly
Passing out in a bruised heap on the floor.

Ellen Kaplan


It was Not Advised.
First, I went to Uganda, where everyone, especially Mother, said, "Don't go."
Second, I fell in love with a man not free.
Third, we danced in Kampala's night clubs, a blur of drums and knives.
Fourth, we entered the countryside at night.
My Safari for body and soul.
Not Safe.

Uganda lived in that time when independence was just new,
when the Colonials had lost,
before Idi Amin inflicted, or unleashed, a scale of death yet unknown.
We worked in Entebbe, lived in a hotel near the Palace of the king of the largest tribe-
really a collection of a few tin stores, the palace, our stately hotel. 
Outside Entebbe, rivers, trees, vines, rich green, over twenty miles to Kampala, some cultivated, some wild.

Without light except the lamp on our Vespa,
without streetlights, without traffic signals,
without lamps in houses,
we rode out of Entebbe,
the only sounds the clang of our bike.
We rented the Vespa to see what the night held except each other.
(Sometimes at night the beat of drums rise,
promise violence to those blind enough to go forth,
rage at what White had done here and left behind,
or just advertise, "come here"
" buy" "buy.")

Out of Entebbe,
we rode down the gravel, over rough paths 
until we entered a village shrouded in dark, 
houses of straw shaped like tents
strewn about the landscape 
like mysterious hives.
I worried about our noise, disturbing,
invading what was not ours.
We cut the motor, 
drifted in the dark,
fear under bravado.

Then I saw.

Through the opening in a straw tent,
I saw
a young woman with mirror
by firelight,
alone, in contemplation of her image,
perhaps seeing better than we could see
by firelight,
caressing her own face.
Her back was straight but supple
like bamboo.

I think of the young men from these tents
who rise each morning
put on white shirts, suits and ties,
ride in the back of a truck
cross a river
board a bus -- each ride except the river
full of bumps, dust,
Leaving this place
of firelight and leaves and a girl with mirror
to clerk in a bank
to clerk in government files,
(not be a busboy or farm hand)
returning at night
with white shirt covered in red dust.

As I held Jim's back
with all my strength,
I found my soul shamed,
not by our risk taking,
but by our brevity,
our drop-in bravery.

Now I dedicate this poem, 
to what I saw and heard:
starlight so sharp it could cut,
darkness verdant with animal eyes and green,
a girl studying herself by firelight,
thin young men emerging from the dark,
daily bravery,
before Uganda lost, or gave away,
the freedom it had gained.

Broeck Wahl


When the flat letter came
His mother was surprised.
Her son did not seem disappointed.
" I guess I'll have to go away," he said.

Since he was up in his class,
With a state scholarship
And a prize in a national science project
She suspected something.

The interviewer asked what he read,
But instead of the Red Badge of Courage
He said, science fiction magazines 
With illustrated covers.

As a concerned parent
Her suspicions moved her
To declare, the rejection is an error;
He is such a prime candidate.

If he were accepted,
He could live at home,
And commute to school,
Continue as in high school
Doing well and not be distracted.
Full speed ahead for med school,

She appealed, and got him a second chance
But he courageously said 
What he had said before,
What he planned to say,
As he stood his ground.

Till the day she died,
She wondered if he were right
To go his own way 
But he was always sure.

Edward N. Halperin


When you hung up
the phone, I went out
into the bitter cold
and returned your
Christmas gift
at the mall.
$250 of what was yours
back to me.

I bought the stickiest 
cinnamon buns, the most expensive
latte mocha extra ccino coffee with whipped cream
and sat down to write my holiday shopping list
of frivolous, expendable, creamy hand and body lotions,
ridiculous satin and lace underwear that he'll never see,
bath oils, gold-wrapped chocolates and scented candles, 
and I will burn every one out tonight.

At the door I took the remaining handful of bills and change
and put it in the kettle next to a young bell-ringing Santa
who had a very fine ass and who gave me a rosy-cheeked wink
that said, "I'll being seeing you on Christmas Eve."

Pamela Milne


hiding in the hayloft 
waiting to ambush brother billy 
broomstick rifle to the ready,
gotta stop them yanks 
boys it's brother against brother 
ain't no man born to take the south 
nose dripping like a busted cistern pump 
eyes tear alfalfa hay allergy 
winning the battle

jumping into the cold pitch black night
from the warm belly of an airplane
flying over some kentucky grassland
floating to earth beneath a silk canopy
moving through the night searching for
friend and foe
eyes tear from the cold night air
practice makes perfect

climbing a hill in vietnam
just to get to the top
napalm and endless screams
the smell of burning flesh
grown men crying out for their mothers
hot molten metal reaching outward
with unseen arms
forsaking all humanity
the throat parched
eyes tear

now comes my own flesh and blood 
marching home from iraq 
with sightless eyes full of tears. 
still we play soldier

Ray Cutshaw


Frankly, my dear, we cancer patients don't give a damn…
We leap off cliff tops, naked, and hang-glide down to the beach
Where we make passionate love to our partners and then scoff two
99s – each
We jet off for tea in China and roam about Rome full of airs
And when we get back to England, we rampage like Legionnaires
We go to the opera and football and shout down the phone when on hold
We're mad buggers and we like it – we're bad, dangerous and bold
(Want to pass me to your supervisor, I'll make sure you'll do as you're told)
It's all show, of course, we're frightened that time is slipping by
The po-faced grim reaper is waiting, he knows we're going to fry
Time hustles and pushes us onwards, towards we know not what
There's a bit of sand left leaking through – but we know there's not a lot
O let not Time deceive you, you cannot conquer time,
The poet said so wisely in another, better rhyme
But when the reaper comes calling, I'll drink with him for luck,
For frankly, my dear, we cancer patients couldn't give a ****

Ray Hurst


My last boyfriend was plain, but he held me well.
The one I cheated on him with was delicious,
but he wouldn't sleep touching.
Some things are easy to figure out.
Some things keep you up at night.
An ant will carry the dead body of a fellow ant back to the hill - for food, I think.
My last boyfriend was plain.
The one I cheated on him with was delicious.
If you find an interesting rock at the beach, it's best to take it home - 
could be an artifact.
Some things are easy to figure.
Some things keep you up.
If you have a chenille bathrobe, it's okay if you run out of towels.
Walt Disney movies are enchanting - I especially like Bambi.
If there's no one to talk to, you can still echo their thoughts.
If you're an ant and hungry, you might have your cousin for supper.
If you write an intimate poem, people will imagine they know your soul

and your closet.
Some people have big imaginations.
Some people don't.
Some things are easy to figure.
Some things keep you up.
My last boyfriend was plain, but he held me.
The one I cheated on him with was delicious, 
but he wouldn't sleep touching.
Go figure.
If you have no one to talk to, you can still echo.
If you forget the bad things you do, not to worry -- 
someone will remind you.



Murder, Querido, can occur in any language.
The moon remains the moon no matter what irons
we toss into its craters.
A telephone cabals, and your aggravation whoops into the night.
A ring of unease circulates the kith and kin.

Escuchame. Escribime. Give me some skin!
Dites-moi softly, how no two people have ever been so in love,
as my macaroon and I. Quote me from Kierkegaard,
fry a banana, you always looked well in a stripéd cabana.
So our world rackets, like two hot maracas.

The long night's moon shines a full fifteen hours
and one minute. What will you do with your last moment?
I know what I'm doing with mine.
Besame mucho. ¿Quizas? Mambo has a form, but not for me.
When Grandma died, the day was near that moon.

You sang fado, five-six-seven-eight. The New York sky was naked,
but occasional shawls overhung dreary spruce trees.
Some berries will linger long after the wind turns cold.
The gash of a tanager. The brazen silhouette of an angry jay.
News from Gibraltar. Distract me, prego, from everyone¹s death.

Speak to the cultural use of a trombone. Slide or staccato,
the music tells what is dear, what kind of motion
we use to transport pity.
Thank you for dancing me low to the floor. The wind
blasts away everything unsecured.

So it puffed my mother into her grave. So it rudely bussed
my father into his own. So you demanded I play the piano
whenever shiva was sat in our home.
Forgiveness resides with the lorros if one chooses
to hang by the nose. You are still here. Your lyrics chatter

way into the night driving your feathers where cigars should go.
Te amo. Je t'aime. Solas palabras. Genuch. All languages are as dead
as Latin for saying what you really mean.
The fires are hotter than you expected, more searing than Habana
dawns. You must like it here. The expectations are almost clear.

Cugat opened the twentieth century. Abbe Lane sat
on your father's lap. At one time, we had a photo of this:
We danced grandma's forks to "Brazil" in the kitchen.
Saludos Amigos. The Gang's All Here. Thank you for jamming.
Save your old cajones for the Devil.

So often you called me from under the sea. Simpatico,
the nickname that you gave to me. O, where have you gone
my humpback whale? Our baby beluga
siestas in jail. He thinks to feast on snacks from the guards.
They are so human. You long for Truman,

the last Presidente to whom you were fidel. Too bad el jefe
disrupted your ventures. Our guerilla is petty
but your libido was grande.
I fainted whenever you brought me some candy. Look in your heart.
If that doesn't work, there¹s always Tequila--If
you can find the salt and lime in Tico Tico doing time.

Deborah S. Greenhut