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Category: My Writing Challenges

New Poem “In Nature” & The Prompt Behind It

IN NATURE 

My daughter calls the outdoors home & needs 
no reason to enter. Her skin, the brush. Her voice 

& birdsong. Her running speed & the air 
through the field. They are the same. 

Sometimes, she blends in so well, I cannot see her. 

The brownest strands of her hair & the bark 
of her favorite tree. Her brown eyes 

& the sparrow. The sway in the flowers & the wave
of her hand. I lose her, if only for a moment, 

but I sink into a feeling of loneliness, until I hear 
her call, her laugh, somewhere in the yard. Whether she is

behind the house, around a tree, or hiding under 
a bush, it doesn’t matter. I know she will come back.

Will be hungry & come home for dinner. 
I know she is under the sun.

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Happy Wednesday, friends! I hope you’re having a wonderful week.

Today is Writing Prompt Wednesday, which means it’s time for a new poem, and a new writing prompt! I hope you’re ready.

You’ll find my poem above, called “In Nature.” I loved writing this one, and I hope you enjoy it.

And without further ado, here is the prompt I used to start writing the poem:

Think about an important, political, environmentally alert issue (there’s not much which isn’t these days!) that is important to you on a personal level.

I addressed this prompt from the perspective of nature—and nothing is more personal to me than how I’m raising my children in it. I’m doing my best to raise kids who prefer to be outside, playing, rather than inside observing a screen. I’m teaching them to love, admire, and respect nature, from the wind to the rain to the plants and all the little living things we may encounter out there. Right now, I’m writing a lot of poetry that centers around watching my children grow up in nature, and I can see this poem fitting in among that collection.

How will you use this prompt?

I can’t wait to see what you come up with. I’d love to see any of you attempt this writing prompt, as well, and send me your resulting poems! I’ll share a favorite or two on our next Writing Prompt Wednesday, in addition to sharing my new poem and prompt. I hope you’ll submit your work!

Happy Wednesday, all! And Happy Inspiration!

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Tuesday Motivation: Is This Your Year to Write Your First Book?

Happy Tuesday, friends—and Happy October 1st! I hope you had a wonderful weekend and a great start to your week.

We’re officially in my favorite month of the year. Fall is in full swing, both of my kids are having birthdays, and there is also Halloween! Seriously, the best season of them all.

The other tremendous news for all writers out there is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which begins one month from today.

NaNoWriMo originated as a challenge for fiction writers to complete one novel in the month of November, but I’ve seen non-fiction writers use it as an opportunity to work on non-fiction projects, as well, and poets converting it to a daily poem challenge. It’s a great platform for everyone!

So the question I have for you is this—Are you ready to write your first book? Is this your year?

Technically, any year, any month, any day could be your time. You just have to make the decision to sit down and start (and eventually, finish!).

But I want to challenge you to make NOW your time.

Just like having children, starting an exercise routine, or moving to a new place, there is never a “good time” to do it. If you look hard enough, there will always be obstacles standing in the way of your success. But if you look hard enough in the other direction, you’ll be able to find the time, energy, and inspiration you need to start working on your book.

Just imagine: You start working on this new, scary project in November, and by the end of the month or the beginning of the New Year, you have a draft in your hands. Think of that. You composed an entire book, and now it’s time to revise it and decide how you want to put it out into the world.

I want you to experience that great feeling of accomplishment now, not next year or ten years from now.

I am a testament to this. I’ve drafted out several books, but they didn’t turned out to be books that I wanted to share with the world. Maybe my feelings about them will change with time, and I’ll go back, significantly revise them, and then seek out a publisher. But the feelings I have about the two books I’m working on right now? These are going to be my first and second novels that the world gets to see. I’ve decided that, and I’m fighting for them. I’m finishing at least one of them during NaNoWriMo, and I’m aiming to finish both of them by the entrance of the New Year.

I want you to fight for your work, too!

I hope that you’ll join me for this NaNoWriMo, whether you use the NaNo platform or work in Google Docs or wherever else you work best.

So much so—I have a few opportunities to share with you.

First of all, I’ve enjoyed the experiences I’ve had as a writing coach, and I’m always open to working with new writers. You could have a few books under your belt like I do, and this is the first one that you’re taking seriously. You could be brand new to this, and you’re not entirely sure what all this “novel-writing business” entails. You could even be a seasoned author who likes a second pair of eyes on their work. I’ve worked with all these different author “character types,” and I’ve loved working with them all.

That’s the first opportunity. If you’re worried about approaching your first novel, staying on-task, being able to fit all this writing into your schedule, fully fleshing out a plot, etc., I’m here for you.

I’m also giving out a few writing resources, closer to the end of the month, as part of my celebration of Halloween. There are going to be three resources, and there’s going to be a “trick-or-treat” option.

I don’t want to give away all the fun yet, but these resources are going to help you plan for your novel, even last-minute, so that you have a sense of what you’ll be writing about going into the month of November. There will be useful information contained in these resources, as well as writing prompts and outlining models that will carry through the Fall to the final lines of your novel draft.

I’m so excited for this month! I’ll be sharing stories of birthdays and apple-picking and poetry reading, for sure. I hope to hear from some of you about working together this NaNoWriMo, too—and I can’t wait to share these resources with you when they go live.

Happy Fall, everyone! Happy October 1st!

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“A Sleeping Octopus Changes Color While Dreaming” & The Prompt Behind It

“O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell
and count myself a king of infinite space,
were it not that I have bad dreams.”

—Hamlet

A SLEEPING OCTOPUS CHANGES COLOR WHILE DREAMING

I can see it up there, high in the corner
like a spider hosting its web. This is how my dreams

always play out: so many animals suspended

from the ceiling or sky. They hover above what I deem
is inescapable. They hold their bodies up high

where I can find them upon waking, untouched.

Compared to my body, which seems bruised
& battered blue, hands cramped from the guns

I’ve had to hold, my mind pulling away from me, away

from the stolen kisses, stolen bodies, I’ve seen. I look up
& I can see it, suspended in the corner

with its eight wandering legs, anything but

spider-like. I hope it will find the way out where
I can follow, but instead, it waits, eyes closed

& beak humming. Its body wakes with color, wandering

from deeper blue into coriander, into maroon,
into salt. It dreams & becomes the only thing in the room

with color; it becomes the thing I watch

while the world falls around me. Its beak
hums over the dust.

***

Happy Wednesday, friends! I hope your week is everything you’ve hoped for.

In the meantime, it’s Writing Prompt Wednesday! I’m so happy to bring this feature back.

For those of you new to this feature—Every Wednesday going forward, I will write and share a poem that was written from some type of writing prompt, as well as the prompt that was used and a few thoughts about the writing and revision process.

I’ve always found it to be fun to get inside other writers’ heads, so I’m giving you the opportunity to get inside of mine. Hopefully it’s helpful!

In addition to sharing my writing prompt and poem, I also want to offer an invitation: I’d love to see any of you attempt this writing prompt, as well, and send me your resulting poems! I’ll share a favorite or two on our next Writing Prompt Wednesday, in addition to sharing my new poem and prompt. I hope you’ll submit your work!

***

So, let’s get back to this week’s writing prompt and poem!

Like I’ve said previously, your writing prompts can be very simple. I want you to be able to draw inspiration from anywhere, no matter how simple, straight-forward, or complex.

This week’s prompt came along accidentally. I saw one of Laughing Squid’s more recent posts, which is entitled, “A Sleeping Octopus Changes Color While Dreaming,” and I thought, “That really should be the title of a poem.” So I used the line, and wrote to the title of the poem.

The Hamlet quote came to me because of the “While Dreaming” clause. I simply used the quote, because it represented the general vibe I was going for in the poem. If I attempt to publish this poem at a later date, I will keep the title (while giving credit to Laughing Squid, of course), but I probably won’t keep the Hamlet quote, as it isn’t referenced in the poem.

Your Challenge! Find a line from something, anything, that is provocative to you: beautiful, challenging, haunting, sexual—whatever gets you writing. Use that line as the title of your poem, and let it guide the content of your poem. The rest is absolutely up to you.

And then share, share, share! I would love to read the poems you write, give you a little feedback, and then share a favorite or two on my blog for Writing Prompt Wednesday next week.

I look forward to reading your words soon! Happy Inspiration to all!

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March 2019: My First Attempt at #PitMad

Years ago, I read Stephen Markley’s Publish This Book, pictured, cropped, as the featured image of this post (and that image borrowed from StrategicPoints, FYI). The front and back cover dynamics of this particular work aren’t an example of what I would usually call “stunning,” but they really are in their own way certainly eye-catching, and an illumination of what is contained in the text, which is so often missed by book covers.

Anyway—book cover design is a whole other subject I won’t be diving into tonight (but know that I could easily spend multiple posts on it: colors, fonts, consistencies, how I approach designing them, etc. etc. etc.). No, the real reason I used that image tonight, and why I took a moment to even talk about it, is the time in which I came across the book and what it meant for me as a writer, retrospectively, and what that did for me today, during my first—if entirely improvisational—round of #PitMad on Twitter.

Some of you may have been a fan of the Borders Group bookstore chain, prior to its close in 2011. I was admittedly very fond of the chain, particularly the location set not too far away from my high school, university, and where I went to church back then. Every Sunday, for approximately two years, I would buy myself lunch on Sunday and then go to Borders, browse books for a while, and then sit writing in their cafe for who-knows-how-long over a drink or a treat or both. It’s sobering to me that I launched this blog the very same year that the Group folded, not even a full three years into what I own as the true beginning of my writing life in 2008 (even though I’ve technically been writing since I was a child, with dozens of half-used diaries and notebooks, and an old refurbished Roland typewriter). It was the time when I was beginning to take my passion seriously, as something I should be pursuing, rather than something to be placed on the back-burner in sight of other endeavors, like I unfortunately did with my love for drawing and piano. It was the time when I began to revise my works in the hopes of publication. It was the time when I began networking with others, not just out of friendship but out of kinship in our shared writing life. And it was the time when I began to learn more about publishing and rejection, through my position as a Managing Editor of an important literary press, and through my discovery of this book by Stephen Markley.

Admittedly, I didn’t know about this book and came across it entirely by accident (which I believe can be the best kind of encounter with books at times—plus I didn’t have nearly so much access to knowledge of new publications as I do now—so I feel little regret in this). For those of you who were fans of Borders like I was, you may also remember the huge wave of sales tags that swept across their stores as they cleared out inventory. It was horrible seeing so much yellow and orange in one place, but I tried to make the best of it, continuing to visit my favorite store every Sunday until the end, bringing as much money with me as I could afford each time to give some of their books a good home. This is when I happened across Publish This Book.

The cover, subtitle, and use of footnotes—so many footnotes—had me laughing in the aisle where I previewed the book, and this younger me took solace in another writer’s journey to publication. I wasn’t even 22 yet, so dreams of having a New York Times best-selling agent, offering a five-book deal and poetry publication options to go with it, were still reigning large, ridiculous, and impossible in the back of my mind. (I still carry with my great ambitions, but they are much quieter, tamer, now.) But all-in-all, this book offered to me a voice of humor in the process, and I believe brought me to the world of accepting rejection as a necessity much sooner than I might have discovered it myself.

I discussed this concept of rejection-as-necessity at length over on my Facebook page yesterday. In short, I explained how I had been rejected for two positions in the last two weeks that would have been life-changing for me: they aligned with my beliefs and how I want to give back, they fulfilled what I wanted to do with my career, I had efficiently performed all of the tasks of the positions in the past, and performing these positions simply would have been something I would have loved. In short, these rejections struck me in a very deep place, because of their importance, but I decided to give myself the day to clean and move past the disappointment, and then to write until I either wrote something I loved, or until I was too tired to write anymore. I did as I required: I cleaned, I wrote, I found something I loved, and I wrote until I was mentally exhausted. And I was able to look back over those pages this morning with pride, agreeing with my last night’s self that what I had written was of quality and something I could spend time revising at a later date.

And it was this feeling of acceptance and calm that I carried with me into my first #PitMad today. I came to it late, around 1:00 PM – CST, and I came to it unprepared; I had heard of #PitMad in the past, but I didn’t know when it occurred (in March and June, if you’re wondering!). Only because a fellow writer posted about it did I discover it and then hop on over into the Twitter-verse. In minutes, I composed my first pitch and sent it out—and then composed three more. With only 280 characters to work with, I didn’t see the reason to spend days, or even hours, drafting my pitch, when there were only seven hours left in the trending marathon. Rather, I trusted my instincts to minimize the synopses I had already written for these works; I trusted myself to know what was the most important to share, and to ship them off in search of consideration.

I’m sure someone will judge me for the lack of preparation, or for having the gall to send out four pitches. But I think there is little, if anything, to be ashamed of when you are excited about what you’re working on. When you’re excited, you should share. Heck, if you’re struggling or unsure of what you’re working on, you should share that with someone, too, in an effort to get back on-track. But I went into this today to be a part of the writing community I’ve come to admire so much, and I wanted to check myself and see if there was any interest (outside of my own) in what I’ve been working on.

And there was. Plenty more re-tweets than I was expecting, a handful of very respectful direct messages I didn’t expect to receive, and one favorite from a small press. Anyone can hope that all of their pitches are going to be picked up, and maybe even by multiple presses so they have some options, but there is something humbling, and even more satisfying, in receiving positive feedback from fellow writers. Too often we are pitted against each other; too often we view each other as competition. So when a group of writers reaches out to me with glowing remarks, I come away glowing, too, with or without a publishing lead.

So, my very simple advice to you tonight? Keep writing, and keep seeking out the work you love—by writers you admire, by writers you don’t know, and by yourself. Involve yourself in the writing community in any way you feel comfortable, big or small, assuming or not. And maybe come to #PitMad a little more prepared, or at least a little earlier in the day, than I did; but even if you’re not 100% prepared, consider pitching anyway. You never know who will have your back, writers or agents alike, and you never know what to-be books you’ll discover and want to read, if you never join in on the conversation.

Until Tomorrow ~ All the Writing Love, from me.

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Interested in Publish This Book? You can find it here:
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Tuesday Motivation: What Are You Working on This Week? Let’s Make It Happen!

Happy Tuesday, friends! I hope you had a wonderful weekend and Monday. Today, I wanted to share with you what I intend to work on this week, and to talk to you about overcoming boundaries. I don’t know about you, but when I’m working under a tight deadline, or have a few too many projects going at once, I have a tendency to make it worse by procrastinating, cleaning, or writing other pieces with a looser (or no) deadline.

This week, the larger theme of my work is establishing myself, and also writing some things off my chest (some people talk to their barber; I write!). What this technically looks like: Writing several pieces about motherhood and mental wellness (each with a different focus), further studying the art of copywriting, pitching and writing a few pieces on current hot topics in entertainment, and submitting poems / collections to various contests and reading periods.

Now, this is a lot, honestly, so how am I going to make it happen? What am I going to do to ensure that I don’t put something off, miss a deadline, or clean my entire house instead of write a piece, or go on an embarrassingly-long Facebook-or-Netflix-binge?

To be honest, my day has taken sort of a slow start. Well, in all honesty, my week has gotten off to a slow start (I mean, I used to do Motivational posts on Monday, not Tuesday!). But, actualy, I like the idea of this Tuesday check-in. Even if Monday ends up being a throw-away day, or a “blah” day, you can still take charge of the rest of your week by re-focusing and fully committing on Tuesday!

All tangents aside, my week has gotten off to a slow start. One of the charms of having a three-month-old in the house (I’m so sad I can’t call my son a newborn anymore! the time is moving too quickly!) is teething. I was talking to my husband last night about how I felt like I had a routine down with my toddler and newborn, but now that my newborn is three months old and cutting multiple teeth early, I feel like I’m less put-together than when he was first born. Which, I know isn’t true, but I’m certainly scrambling to make heads or tails of my schedule again!

Instead of continuing to give the power over to exhaustion and indirection, though, I’m taking some steps this week to make sure all of these tasks happen (and don’t worry, this blog post was on my list of things to write!).

Keep these ideas in mind for you, too. You can approach them in a different order than I’ve written below, and I’m sure you can adapt the finer details to how you work best, as well as what you’re working on.

Keep Your Schedule to Paper; Leave the Rest to Chance Your Computer Screen

I don’t know about you, but it’s so easy for me to become distracted when I’m working with a screen. Even while writing on my blog right now, I’m tempted to wander over to Facebook or check my email. I know there are all kinds of media-blocking apps and time management trackers—some of which I plan to try out and review in the coming months—but I honestly find it easier to begin by handwriting / brainstorming / webbing / listing my ideas, prior to tying and re-entering the world of the interwebs.

This also applies to my schedule. I carry with me a lovely Passion Planner, where I outline everything: work, homeschool, family, life—one week at a time. Again, this keeps me away from a screen and temptation, and is easy enough to edit when things change. Without the use of an electronic planner, I’m faced with one less reason to use and mindlessly peruse my phone.

Review Your Schedule and Decide When You’re Willing to Work

No matter what type of work you’re doing, you have to set clear boundaries. When are you willing to work? What type of work will you do? What compensation do you want or need? Knowing the answers to these questions will provide you a more productive work situation, and I believe the schedule is the most important. Look at all the time frames you’d be willing to work, and compare them to when you actually work.

Change Up Your Routine

Performing the above comparative work (when you work vs. when you’d be willing to work) may open your eyes to how you could vary your schedule. Physical Trainers highly recommend varied schedules and combinations when working out, for your body to perform optimally, and your work schedule is no different. By moving your writing time from the morning to midday, or spreadsheet creation from the evening to breakfast time, you may find an awareness and better mindset in the new time that you had lost to too much regularity or even prior poor scheduling decisions.

Know What Kind of Energy Fuels You Best

Finally, know what’s fueling you, and decide whether or not it’s best. Artists and writers are always talking about coffee and tea, and I am no exception. But when I am honest with myself, I know that copious amounts of water, and writing after a yoga session or walk in the morning, and writing again in the afternoon-evening after a high-intensity workout or dance routine, is my body and mind’s true love language for success, good writing, and productivity.

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My 24-hour Crash-and-Burn and My 30/30 Project

Hi friends!

April is only a few short days away, and I want to share a little about what I’m committing to in my own writing life.

First of all, yes, I am going to complete the 30/30 challenge: aka, 30 poems in 30 days, or, write daily.

BUT, to also raise money for my organization Write around the Bend, I’m going to write for 24 hours straight on Friday, April 1, through Saturday, April 2, 6pm to 6pm! If you would like to pledge an amount per poem or per hour, or offer a flat-rate donation, ALL proceeds will go to the needs of Write around the Bend. Let’s make something happen.

Thank you all so much for your support, and I’ll see you back here on Friday!

Until Later, Best ~ from me.

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National Poetry Month Goals!!

 

Hi everyone!

I hope everyone was able to get out and enjoy the first day of spring a little bit yesterday. It was about 40 degrees here, with beautifully crisp air. We wound up barbecuing out with some friends, so it was a great time. It gave me a chance to pause, and to think about my writing life a little bit, too.

I haven’t really had the chance—or given myself the time—in the past to plan for National Poetry Month, but since I have ten more days, I thought now would be a good time to make some commitments!

First, I’m going to get back into the swing of posting a poem each day. That has been a really fun venture and one that I haven’t stuck with as well as I had originally hoped. So April will be a great time to recommit!

Second, I’m going to do NaPoWriMo and write one poem per day, BUT I’m putting a special twist on it—I have started a blog called “April and May” to invite writers to attempt to write one poem per day throughout April… but if they can only write every other day, or every few days, they’ll have May to make up for it. So I’m hoping to write a poem per day, or every other day, throughout the months of April and May, and I am inviting other writers to do the same.

And third, my largest plan is to review one book of poetry per day. It’s a big venture, and my reviews may not be QUITE as long as usual, but they will be as detailed. If any writers would like to take this challenge up with me, or if anyone would REALLY like to see their book reviewed during April, please be in touch with me (this would also be a great opportunity to get some author interviews in!).

Thank you all for your support! I can’t wait to hear from some of you, and to see your writing popping up around the web! Until Later, All Best ~ from me.

 

 

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“Failing” in the August 2014 Poetry Postcard Challenge: My Writing Process

 

The rules of a Writing Challenge are never all that difficult: “Do [this] for [a certain number of days], and hold yourself accountable.”

“If you are able to complete the challenge, reward yourself in self-appreciation, cookies, sending your work out, or other such pleasantries.”

“If you are unable to meet the requirements of the challenge, or miss a few days, don’t feel bad. These challenges are difficult, as is bringing ourselves to write on a daily basis (as most of these challenges require). Consider where you went wrong, and improve these areas for future challenges.”

Seems easy. Straight-forward. Simple.

However, how do we really measure whether or not we’ve successfully completed a challenge, or failed? Is it really as black-and-white as “if you’ve fulfilled all the requirements, you’ve won”? Or should we break this down further into “Well, I didn’t really like what I wrote during the challenge, but I at least pushed myself to complete the challenge!” and / or “No, I didn’t write every. single. day., but I loved what I wrote and intend to revise it and am genuinely happy with my performance!” How do we measure success?

I think what it may come down to is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic values—the difference between personal gains and the appearance of gains, or success. If one chooses to complete a writing challenge to fulfill the appearance of writing on a daily basis, then the entire focus will be on the quantity: whether or not the writer manages to write a poem per day, and post them. However, if one chooses to complete a writing challenge to learn something (whether about writing poems, or their writing process, or to reflect on a larger project, etc), then fulfilling the requirements of the challenge consistently become more of a “bonus,” rather than a requirement. The appearance of writing regularly and writing well, as opposed to the learning process and personal gains of writing, goes out the window.

I’m not trying to be deceitful and dance around the fact that I didn’t “complete” the challenge. I didn’t complete the challenge. There was one day that I missed fairly early on, and I simply had other things to do in the last few days of August. But I had fun, and I wrote poems that I want to revise and that I feel (for the most part, with just a few exceptions) that these could be strong, future contenders for my first full-length manuscript. These poems also got me thinking about other writing projects I could get myself into, and they really centered me as far as what I want my full-length manuscript to be, which earlier in the summer had been undecided. Even if there are not thirty-one poems to present here, they taught me a lot, and I don’t regret them—and I don’t regret the few that didn’t make it to the page for a challenge’s sake (which is certainly not to minimize the importance and place of a writing challenge, but only to suggest that there are times when breaking the rules are better than fulfilling requirements).

August was quite the month, and the Poetry Postcard Fest was quite the challenge; I imagine I’ll probably do it again next year and will aim to actually write a poem on a daily basis—but in the hopes that I will learn as much, and feel as confident about, those poems as I have felt about these.

 

August 2014 Postcard Project

 

 

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Anticipating Her Arrival

 

I have asked my husband, What do you think she will look like? He frowns, and I know there is no answer. Not right now. All I know is beauty: crows bursting from a field, a candle flame, a gust of wind after rainfall. These things are beautiful, imprinted somewhere in her face, her hands. Somehow, I know they will be, like the stars.

 

August 2014_Poem 21_Anticipating Her Arrival

 

August 21, 2014, MLT

 

 

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Due Date

 

The act is violent, the tearing open, the skin. I imagine bird claws, the talons, a wind breaking open between two buildings. The mouth, agape. And the arrival. Two shadows.

 

August 2014_Poem 20_Due Date

 

August 20, 2014, MLT

 

 

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I Am Running Out of Poems.

 

And then I look to the fall trees, and I wonder if they ever think, “I am running out of leaves.” They probably do, they with their tall, scarred bodies, launching outward and up. Sometimes, they are probably dreaming, or worse, waking. They open their eyes to colored leaves, the green having fallen out, and they know it is only a matter of time. Their leaves fall, they are stepped on, they are lost on the river, and then that’s it. Dormancy and sleep, a winter cage. I can write during any month.

 

August 2014, Poem 19, I Am Running Out of Poems

 

August 19, 2014, MLT

 

 

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Searching Tide Pools for Shore Crabs

 

Crab is such an ugly word—the hard k, its suddenness. I’m steeped in these small pools, or perched on the surrounding rocks and sand, one hole after the next, searching for shore crabs, carcinus maenas. I find their gray and tan bodies, slick with the tide, their sideways catapult from rock slide to water. For the few I pick up and return, they seem harmless, but I’ve seen what they can do. They hunt in packs. Whatever unsuspecting thing is there, it will be buried beneath the collection of pinchers and bodies, the sheer weight of them. The act is louder and longer than you would expect. We’ve come so far from home.

 

August 2014_Poem 18_Searching Tide Pools for Shore Crabs

 

August 18, 2014, MLT

 

 

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