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Two Voices

November 2017

Richard Wilbur died on October 15, 2017, in Belmont, Massachusetts at age 96. He was an American poet and literary translator, and one of the foremost poets of his generation. He composed primarily in traditional forms and his poems had wit and what might today be considered a "gentlemanly elegance." It is unfortunate that it sometimes takes the death of a writer for me to go back and look at their work again. I suppose that it is a good thing whenever we do go back and read their work and put our living breath into their words.

I chose for this month's prompt his poem "Two Voices in a Meadow."  It looks on the page like two poems, but they are connected by the location in the meadow.  As the title says, these are two different voices - a milkweed personified and the voice of a stone.

I suppose these two voices are opposites - one living, one not. Of course, the milkweed will have its season and die, and the stone was once living material. Their attitudes are quite different about their current place in this meadow world.

For this month, you are to write a poem in two voices. The structure should look, as the model poem, like two poems in two distinct sections. The voices can be those of people or things or a combination, but they must both be addressing the same topic. That might be a location, as in Wilbur's poem, or any theme or subject.

Wilbur uses form and rhyme in his poem and that does give it a neat structure. You may want to try the same. His 8-line sections are not a triolet or an octave, but you may want to use a form(s) for your two voices.

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


On the sill I melt slow motion
to crimson-orange from within,
as vivid as sunset ocean,
desire inside the skin.
On verge of rot I waver
till someone takes me in hand
and bites to test the savor
dissolving at his command.

You cannot hear the echo of
my spinning against the light,
unlike the noisy mourning dove
so publicly taking flight.
I spin my silk to crack the glass –
that’s how it looks on inspection.
I catch whatever life might pass

across the light of reflection.

Taylor Graham


To Fly
Over the ocean
Is to be free
I soar
Into the clouds depth
As the sun rises
As the sun sets
My wings span
Explores me into the heavenly body of sky
of my home
For it is not the nest
it is the infinite and altitude of sky

To swim
Within the ocean
Is to be free
I glide
Into the waters depth
As the sun rises
As the sun sets
My caudal fin
Pushes me around the heavenly body of water
of my home
For its not the bowl
Its the vastness and depth of sea

Kat Miles


Their voices filled my head both day and night
The sheep with their pathetic gurgle of praise;
The cattle with their ceaseless lowing,
As if all there is to ask for is sunshine and a warm breeze.

Then add His wheezing that blows the stars around.
Why give me words and not let me think them?
And the only comfort that Adam could offer
Was that acceptance was the lot of men.

So when the snake offered escape from this mayhem,
I snatched it, and found my serenity:
No longer bored by the thoughts of simple beasts,
Or the endless drone of the Almighty.

We all sing as best we can the glory of creation,
From the sheep to the stars in their shells.
Even my ‘hiss’ supported the harmony
That was the envy of the angels.

All but the two with the irritating whine:
For her, the sky was never blue enough;
For him the night was so dark
He feared she might wander off.

I don’t know what God was thinking
When he gave them the option to sing or curse.
All I know is that since their banishment,
Eden is again Paradise.

Ron Yazinski


What am I supposed to teach?
What am I supposed to learn, teach?
We are back to back
Or are we face to face
Me in old fashion leather soles
You with you crepe rubber.

My duty is to keep them, here
Perhaps discuss the baseball scores
The dangers of being a drug user,
Not thinking nothing happens
Cause we all know as Elvis said,
‘Shit happens.’
And then there is attendance
With reading names on (from) Delaney cards
Keep 'em quiet
So we all survive the day.

“Hey Teach I got to go
To the john, I have a number one
And telling me to wait till
Tarik returns ain't right.
I got to go
Tarik says I got the clap
Or maybe worse, who knows.
Ave Maria is a hot Italian number
I got to go
I dribble on myself
I'll use the waste paper basket
You can have more than one
Out of the classroom at a time
More than one time.”

In this hacienda,
what's the agenda?

Edward Halperin


I knew it was the wrong thing to say.
I said it.
No taking it back.
I live with it to this day.

It had to be said
and I said it.
Knowing it would hurt,
I hurt and have no regrets.

Pamela Milne


The Rot
Is inherited along with the tree
That bears your cradle from the day that you're born.
It's not for you to choose which one is yours.
With family you take the rose with the thorns.
But love exists not in my veins but my mind.
My heart's not cordate or pink, it just beats.
Blood isn't always thicker than water.
Often when I bleed it just leaks and leaks.
And though our roots are ingrained, we push
Against them like we push against the wind.
It's not resoluteness of character, rather
The stubborness of prides heels digging in.
We've sacrificed the bark for the Berlin Wall.
Now the dead leaves fall like confetti rain
To an apathetic requiem of lumberjacks
And the sound of us shunning the family name.

The Heart
Is exposed by decay through a cavity.
The structure is crying out for a boon.
So what then is the human equivalent
Of pouring cement into a wound?
Now that we're older and bolder with time,
Compassion has sailed for foreign shores
And left none at home for the landlocked few.
We're no longer bound by unwritten laws.
But through the gritted teeth of civility,
Can we stomach it for the others involved?
The ones who make up the arms of this tree.
Where the blight of just two is everyone's cold.
And that guilt hails a sobering presage.
The proverb: when a trees falls in the woods,
Even if there's no one around to hear it,

Our descendants will wonder where it stood.

David Pearman


A Cardinal
I flit from bush to bush
My plumage dull,
My carmine robe
No longer full.
Spring’s summer brood
And splurge of green,
Those hectic days of life,
Recede, like time, unseen.

A Yaupon
Autumn’s empty sky
And weakening light,
In chiaroscuro paint
My berries bright.
My leaves shine green
And soft as wax,
My limbs, like iron,
Belie the ax.

Robert Miller


A millworker
A conspiracy of clouds
inscribes graven images
on the temple that is
my chest.
Kafkaesque beings float
before me,
singing songs of battles
lost and battles won
whilst I reminisce fondly
of your scars and wounds
from the last war
and how you repeal
every bit of logic
I try to hold on to.

A stonemason
A conspiracy of clouds
walked to the corner store
there to buy the songs of Kafka
to spew among my cherubs.
I read the graven images
inscribed upon your chest;
they tell tales of the battles
that have wounded and scarred me
as I fondly hold close
the logic I have stolen from you.

R. Bremner


Deer to Deer
So here we all go once again ladies
Are you ready to rock, jingle and roll?
Kiss goodnight to the bulls and the babies
It’s Christmas Eve here at the pole
We’re looking good, we’re looking strong
Our footpads are tight and noses are warm
We are super fierce cows lean and long
The sky is clear; no chance of storm
Hooves down, harnesses on, antlers held high
Look- Here comes the boss, it's T minus five
Double file please; noses toward the sky
Fly Girls, let’s see that magic come alive

A herd on a mission all hold on tight
Last call for toys on this caribou flight

Claus to Claus
I’ll bring home some cookies; don’t wait up late
The workshop is closed; time for a break
The sleigh is ready, and the toys look great
You’re welcome to join me, for old times’ sake
You drive like the wind, you practice all year
It’s your time now; your legend is still new
Open hearts and minds will embrace not fear
The team is female; and the Claus is too
Thanks to you, mom, the reindeer and elves
Noe, we did our part; the rest was all you
Have faith you say; believe too in ourselves
He winked and hugged me then off we flew

Dad’s old reins I held jingled loud and clear
A Merry Christmas to all far and near

Terri J. Guttilla