Poets Online Archive
May 2006

Cecilia Woloch is not the first person to look at a sign and see it in a new way. I know I have found that sign "Slow Children at Play" sans punctuation to be amusing. But I didn't write a poem about it. She did.

"Slow Children at Play" (from Late, 2004, BOA Editions Ltd) is obviously more than just the play on the words she found on a sign post, but that's where it begins. Call it a misreading or call it an interpretation.

For this prompt, we look for a sign to be the starting place -and the title - of a poem. A sign seen on a roadside, on a store, even an advertisement in a newspaper, magazine or on TV is acceptable. It might be a good opportunity for a humorous poem, though I suspect some submissions will be quite serious too.

Please look  at our blog for more on this poet, poems and especially about this prompt, and join a conversation with fellow poets.

Cecilia Woloch is the author of three collections of poetry, Sacrifice, Tsigan, and Late. She is the founding director of Summer Poetry in Idyllwild.  She was born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1956 and grew up in Pittsburgh and in Kentucky. She earned degrees in English and Theatre Arts from Transylvania University. Woloch has been active as a poet in the schools and teacher of creative writing workshops. She has received poetry prizes from The Wildwood Journal, Literal Latte, and the Kentucky Arts Council. She travels widely and maintains homes in both Los Angeles and Atlanta.   Her website is www.ceciliawoloch.com and she is a blogger.  


The store is wood, was brown once
salt and air and blowing sand have washed it gray
tubs of dark earth hide fat night crawlers
children hush when the man takes the scoop
rolls them out on butcher paper
makes the paper into a cone. Shakes the crumbling soil
and pale fleshly wriggles into a Tupperware
charges a dollar ninety-five.

We stand
on the dock as the river grumbles behind
close our eyes tight, impale the worm
Uncle Mike says don’t worry
they don’t feel any pain
even though they wriggle faster after plucked
from a cool moist bed and pricked
right through their guts.

My cousin Lisa stands by the breaker wall
cupping a cigarette out of sight of her father
she wears tight khaki shorts, a collared shirt
long metal earrings with red feathers on the end
rolls of pelt brown hair on either side of her face
blue bored eyes blink through the smoke.

Uncle Mike’s friend we call Uncle Peter
who is not really an uncle, just a neighbor from Newark
can’t keep his eyes off her. Last time
we went fishing she bent over him
as he knelt above a naked hook
brushed her front against his back, whispered
they don’t feel anything my ass, and he
got his thumb stuck along with the worm.
blood bloomed and he stuck his thumb
into his mouth with a rueful smile. She blushes, at least.
I am just turned twelve and watch
stock still beside them, understanding it all
the sharp hook, the pain, and the foolish girl.

Patty Tomsky


Bug-eyed arching her back
W/ a disgusted expression
In neon pink sponge rollers
Fuzzy lime green slippers
A butt huge and hard
Busting through
High water
Navy blue
Stretch pants
Breasts wobbly
Pert w/new milk
Point like guns
At the passing cars
Pavement scarred
Blood dot birthmarks
Of the corner
An empty 7-11 cup
Rolls around
Her ankle
Like a pet

Karyne De Contreras

(sign on street person in New York City)

One Way. Comforting
to have the path so clearly
there in balck and white.

No Outlet. Like when
I was in high school, speeding
down a dead end street

No Turns it said but
the truth was No Right Turns and
no Wrong Way in sight.

Hung on my doorknob
Do Not Disturb meant sex, sleep,
writing poetry.

Pamela Milne


Do you see the slow children at play?
Pretending to live
Do you see their plight?
Do you see they’re poor?
Do you know they’re there,?
Do you even care?

Can you drive on by in your fancy car?
When they fight for life
When they face their fear,
Do you even hear?

Do you watch them die?
Do you even cry?
Do you drive on by?
Would you ever stop?
Would you take a chance?
Would you help them up?
No, you look away, and just drive on by
Leaving then to play -live or die

M van der Molen


Detesting cute signs designating where we
may have privacy in public places,
I envision a female sitting on a commode
lariat in hand inside a stall labeled Cowgirls
how starry eyed and out of this world
she might be posing as an Astronaut
or if she is potty trained for
a water closet signed Little Girls Room
wondering how put off with
toilets branded Calves next to Bulls,
or an uneasy feeling entering
a cubicle reserved as Hers right next to His
perhaps the desperation to fly
from nests for Doves and Hawks
being overcome with sea sickness
confronting Gulls cozy with Buoys
so I’m not happy at all with how far we go
from the old reliables Women and Men
and even further from a simple dignity
found in Ladies and Gentlemen

F. William Broome


Scientists don't search for meaning
like theologians

animals have no past, present, future tense
which saves them from searching

where they came from
or an explanation of the creation,
and for an afterlife.

I see a sign ahead of me
and sure enough

I have to stop,
and think about these things,
and about being prepared

to stop, and about that highway
without warning signs
without horns to herald a time
to begin again.

Ken Ronkowitz

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