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A Room


In the poem Meditation by the Stove by Linda Pastan (from Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems) the poet creates a metaphor that is rich enough to allow the reader to step inside of it. She creates a room that is full of interesting objects for us to explore. Where does our reader's eye settle in this poem? On the "small but steady blaze" that bookends the poem? Or does it wander to the dough spilling over the rim, the child under the table, or the the brown bird at the window? And all of these images unfold in the poem's first sentence.

Write a poem which uses a literal room as its focus. Fill that room with objects - both literally and figuratively - that allow a reader to enter, explore and leave feeling better for the visit.

Linda Pastan's books include: Heroes in Disguise (Norton, 1991) and An Early Afterlife (Norton, 1995). PM/AM was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1982, and The Imperfect Paradise was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998 was a finalist for the National Book Award.

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

This is Rapunzel's territory

smoke lingering
under the neon lights
and the noise
that awful noise
that has become a tenant
in her memory

There has been one prince too many
and this room at the top of the tower
no longer holds
innocence and purity
and crisp white sheets

This is Rapunzel's territory
and she is selling her locks
for a way out

Caroline Lacy

Viewed from The Alhambra

Are we really all so different –
you and I?
You who quartered women
in seraglios
niched near tiled pools,
Moorish caliph
come to capture Spain.

I can understand your
love of beauty –
poet’s words
engraved within your walls,
keyhole windows
peeking on vast views,
spewing from a lion’s lips,
holy cleansing pools.
Clay stalactites
tapering into blue,
caved corridor of pillared arches
laid with mother’s pearl,
filigreed, open into court.

I can understand your
strong desire –
retiring to the garden
beyond protective moats,
walking midst the molded Cyprus
past dark ponds where
lilies float.

Oh, King, residing in Alhambra,
my garden’s small
compared to yours,
my palace plain and dull,
and yet I, too, find peace
behind their simple walls.

Cherise Wyneken

Kitchen Table: Still Life

Chrome table lighter.  Empty ashtray.
White rose begins descent over the red vase.
Two butter knives.
Yellow china plate dusted with brown crumbs.
Half (okay, a third) of Cotes-du-Rhone.
Your uncapped whiskey.
Tums and Wite-Out.
A vacant chair, the remote
No you,
No bowl of fruit.

Jennifer Poteet


I admit to apprehension every time I open the door,
never sure I'll find what I'm looking for, never sure
of what I'll find at all when I reach
blindly against the wall for the light switch,
and in truth, it's a mess down there, melting pot
of my life:  baby clothes, spare light bulbs, not
to mention Anne Sexton's biography which I read
from cover to cover one summer, or the nearly dead
mouse which I found stuck to the trap we'd set
for spider crickets.   I had to get
my husband to come down, had to shout
for help, while I watched, frozen, as its heart beat itself out
through its thin gray skin.  I am a coward.
My father-in-law's ashes are down there too, the urn
wedged between half-empty cans of paint,
though he's probably happy, my husband points
out, to be near the cabinet where we keep
bottles of whisky and gin.  I can't even sweep
out this room for all its clutter.  Still, I go there.
The hope that I'll find what I want is stronger than my fear.

Susan Rothbard

My Corner

With my back to the living room
my defiant eyes face this alternate screen
even while my ears cannot erase
television’s ever-pounding pace.

What a mess, this makeshift desk!
Some years ago I bought a flush-door
to fit over my two files.
Then, stealing the spare leaf
from our dining table
and propping it up
on children’s building blocks
I raised my monitor to the level of my eyes.
Glued and stapled molding strips
hid the blocks from view;
but, soon warping out of shape,
they no longer add to the decor.

More, my files are now too hard to reach
because of the two oak TV trays
placed on my left and on my right.
One tray holds the journal
I’m currently using to fuse my memory
into my memoirs.
and the other- on my right -
sags beneath eternal scribbles.

Set up on my ancient typing table,
the printer - like my files -
is also out of reach
until I move those TV trays,
loaded down with stuff.
Thus, my world of research
often comes crashing to the floor.

To avoid this worriment,
I put off printing what I write
and stack un-filed folders
all over come-at-able space,
fully intending to spend
some available time
putting things back in order
and in place. But not right now.
There’s a world out there to face!

Catherine M. LeGault

Room 1204

Conversation comes easily to me
through the wall into 1203
where I sit up in bed
alone but for my journal
and a muted TV.
My pen tries to make sense
of the room around me,
listing details of bedspread,
framed prints, false wood.
But their conversation takes
my attention from writing.
The meter of their words,
intonation, volume, rising pitch,
without sense, or irony,
metaphor or form.
The line breaks of dialogue,
punctuated by laughter
and pauses where I imagine
they touch, or kiss.
I hear them in the bathroom-
the stop and go water of brushing
teeth, in preparation for bed.
I prepare myself, turn off the lights
so that my hearing tunes finer.
I put my pen and paper bedside.
I hope they will make love.

Pam Milne

Kathy's Room

just an ordinary room
full of ordinary things
a small bed with ruffled pillows,
borders  of pink lace
a garden of pale flowers,
outlined against a faded quilt
washed once two often.
a doll propped upon a dresser
its face ghostly white,
eyes staring, with empty expression.
a calendar from the year 1984
with a blue-eyed jesus
hanging on a cross.
a photograph of a young soldier
in uniform,  by the bed
with the words to my daughter kathy
with all my love, dad.
just an ordinary room
that once felt the presence of an extraordinary
little girl
that i never knew until it was too late
and the little girl was no more

Ray  Cutshaw

Intensive Care

The work of every day that anchors us to the ground
is what I spoke to you about for two hours tonight
in your hospital room that looks out on the city street.

Your eyes never opened. You never nodded or replied.
It was not a conversation, and yet, I heard answers
in my own words as I spoke them aloud.

Your breathing, regular as the machine that guided it,
spondaic where my sighs were iambic, pulling me
into you, leading my words to another room.

My childhood room, the window filled with leaves
from the linden tree, backlit by a street light,
your hand on back till I fell asleep.

I told you of everything I did today. The drive to work,
the office, lunch and meetings, traffic accidents, dinner
and the evening news, walking the hall from the elevator

I realized I was on the wrong floor, seeing pink and blue
clouds on walls, babies in plastic bubbles, eyes closed,
feet moving in some dreaming activity - I had to touch

the glass of their room, like some prisoner receiving
visitors I wanted to touch them, tell them everything
would be all right; that someone would hold them soon.

Charles Michaels


One room, a home.
Like in college-
a room off-campus
and one-pot cooking.
Wood, inside and out.
A table, two chairs, a bed.
Like Walden.
Even a pond.
Sleeping there changed things.
The way things change
when you sleep.
In another room, another landscape.
Sex changes.
Dreams change.
Like the dream I had last Spring
sleeping on the couch –
trapped in a pit, the dirt walls
crumbling, my family peering
over the edge unable
or unwilling to help me out.
A home, one room.
Spare, simple.
The hope is that
the distractions are gone.
The reality is that
the distractions are greater.
Distractions of the self.
The sounds of your mind
sawing wood to build
an addition to the cabin.
Your wife with child.
Winter coming on.
The paper you wrote on
needed to start a fire.

Ken Ronkowitz

The Dining Room

walls, the color of tea
warm and brewed with sunlight
in a fine bone china teacup,
a vintage American maple hutch,
a table arrayed with heirloom lace,
a young girl, shiny with anticipation
and new patent leather maryjanes,
setting it with the good dishes
the way her mother taught her
as if she were setting goodness itself on the table:
forks to the left,
knife and spoons to the right,
linen napkin folded in thirds,
and at each place a crystal goblet-
prisms, cupping rainbows-
the silver clinking with a ring of expectancy
like the ring of the doorbell
when company arrived,
the ring of the dinner-bell
calling them to the table
to break bread and feast on shared blessings,
the girl unaware that twilight would descend
imperceptible as the sigh
that would gently snuff the candlelight,
unaware that one day
she would unfold this scene from a pocket in her memory
and hold it-
a talisman against grief.

Barbara Whitehill