A Poet's Double Life

For poets working outside the literary world.

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April Poem-a-Day Challenge, Day 10

Thanks to Sion Dayson of paris im(perfect) for giving me the line that inspired this poem, “It would be a beautiful suffering.”

Prompt: Write a suffering poem

The Last Time I Got My Hair Braided
~after Natasha Trethewey


I sit with back and neck stiff-straight.
I dare not move my head from side
to side, can barely read the book propped
to eye-level on elbows. My lids close to breathe
into the sensation of scalp pulled by strands
of desperate hair clinging to their roots.

We’re well past the four hours Sonya said
it would take, before four hands sunk
into the thicket of coils beneath my crown.
I still feel a loose patch near my right ear,
soon-to-be replaced by ten or twelve
pencil-thin braids. This, I reason, is less
effort than the biweekly press-and-curl, less
expensive than weaving in Remy hair, more
natural than a no-lye relaxer. But the pain
is no different from the hot comb’s singe,
the sizzle of the flat iron, or the burn
of the “creamy crack.” It feels no
better than when my mother’s firm
hands tried to coax a rat-tailed comb
through my tender six-year old head.

It will be three months before I will
think about suffering this way again,
three months before I stay shut in my room,
all my fingers intent on unraveling
the plaits to separate what is real
from what is not, three months
until I see this spongy, tangled mass
again and decide to cut it off.

~Pamela L. Taylor © 2013

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April Poem-a-Day Challenge, Day 9

Today’s poem combines the bop  (a poetic form invented at Cave Canem), the story from the last novel I read, and a Motown song I’ve always loved.

Prompt (Two for Tuesday): Write a hunter/hunted poem.

The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game (The Tiger’s Wife: A Bop)

steel trap
Bombs rain down on the zoo, exploding
the tiger’s world from captivity
to freedom—beyond the melted
bars, past paved and tree-lined streets–
guided by the pit of its stomach and a faint
familiar smell from a distant village.

What’s this ol’ world coming to?
Things just ain’t the same.

Only the hunter can save the village,
draped in the ursine skin of the game
he has won, wielding knives and setting
snares, preying on the ways and habits
of the yellow devil in the forest.
But the tiger slips from the grasp
of this master of the business of death—
as if protected by some invisible force.

What’s this ol’ world coming to?
Things just ain’t the same.

But she lays winter fowl on steel-teeth snaps
to bait the hunter’s anger into knee-deep
snow, where her tiger-husband waits to feast
on a human heart, pick flesh and organs
clean from the rib cage, and leave the hunter’s
empty skin strewn across blood-smeared fields.

What’s this ol’ world coming to?
Things just ain’t the same.

~Pamela L. Taylor © 2013

Prompt: Write an instructional poem.

What To Do After She Dumps You


And when you think you’re ready
to move on, wait some more.

At least until you no longer have
the urge to drive past her house
at night to see the red Honda parked
in the driveway. Or worse, her car
and that blue BMW you saw last week.

She is doing what she wants
to do now and so should you.

Start a hobby, or better yet,
go back to an old hobby—the one
you abandoned when you started
to get serious. She liked you better
when you had your own
interests, your own friends.

You liked you better.

When you look into the mirror
after brushing your teeth, say hello
to the guy that attracted her in the first
place—with his untamed smile and dancing
eyes, whose heart was unadorned
by guard dogs and chicken wire.

But whatever you do,
don’t call,
don’t email,
don’t send midnight messages
just to say ‘Hi’. You’re feeling
in the dark for a switch
that isn’t there. Her slim hand is not
going to reach out and guide
you back to safety. You’ll have to fumble
and stumble, and prop yourself up
along the wall, and grope
your way toward the light.

It’s there.
Keep reaching.


~Pamela L. Taylor © 2013

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April Poem-a-Day Challenge, Day 7

For today’s prompt, write a sevenling poem, a 7-line poem that features two tercets and a one-liner in the final (third) stanza. The first two stanzas should have an element of three in them that can either play off each directly, work as juxtaposition, or have no connection whatsoever. The final line should work as either a punchline, weird twist, or punctuation mark.

Dancers: A Sevenling

This one flounces and struts across the floor
like a peacock, her black pants stretched thin
by round hips, her lacy top holding breasts firm.

That one glides on hardwood like a swan
on a peaceful lake, her neck long and poised,
her mouth pointed and silent—like her eyes.

I long for the song of the common nightingale.

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April Poem-a-Day Challenge, Day 6

Prompt: Write a post poem



You walk along the side of the road with stone-faced
determination, dusty gravel clinging to the sweat
of your calves, your arms held out and bent
at the elbow like the borrowed cradle that used
to hold your sleeping baby girl.

She’s old enough to walk, to feed and dress
herself, but you let her get too much sun, caved in
when she whined for cotton candy after the funnel cake
you shared. After all, she got gold stars for helpfulness
everyday this week and walked all the way to the street
festival singing made up songs without one break.

Even now, her logic astounds you as her limp body bears
down on your ulnas and the sun tracks its heat
across your strained shoulders. Even now, you know you’d hold her
for this long and longer like you did the time she pounded
her two-year old fists on the toy store floor when you pulled
her away from the doll she desired.

You were being a good mother, weren’t you? Teaching her
that life will not always go her way? You reasoned she needed
to learn disappointment early, but collapsed under the cacophony
of her wails. What is a mother to do—then and now—
when every whimper brings you back to your daughter
at four-months old, how her coos melted into cries that day her ears
were pierced, how you taught her what it meant to feel pain?

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April Poem-a-Day Challenge, Day 5

Prompt: Write a plus poem

When I Tell People I’m Still Single


Jaws unhinge,
foreheads crinkle,
eyes commence
the full body scan
she seems nice
looks healthy
speaks well
as if these things
should add up
to a husband, boyfriend,
or custody arrangements
at the very least.
So they try higher-order
math, search their minds
for that x-factor to solve
the mystery of me—
the criminal or crazy
in my genes, hidden behind
the gleam of my 32 good
teeth. The why must equal
the exponential growth
of some flaw, compounded
by time and bitterness,
like having standards
out of proportion with reality
or the vector of unavailable
and ne’er do well men that surely
have intersected my heart,
compressed its’ openness
to the smallest natural number.
I am an anomaly:
The simple answer is:
I have no clue and I’ve stopped
trying to figure it out.

~Pamela L. Taylor © 2013


April Poem-a-Day Challenge, Day 4

Special thanks to my colleague for suggesting the title and some of the imagery of this poem. Who says poetry and work doesn’t mix?

Prompt: Hold that <blank>

Hold that Hot Potato

But not too close to your lips
because my heat burns
through this tinfoil shell.

Take your time peeling back
my russet brown skin, savoring
the hidden virtues of my flesh.

Don’t try to change what I am
by baking me halfway, twice, or thrice,
by turning me into fries or tots,

by mashing me with milk
or whipping me into a fluff.
I’m best served whole,

dressed up however you please:
sour cream and chives,
four-alarm chili with cheese,

pepper and salt with butter
churned to match my perfection,
or simply nothing at all.

~Pamela L. Taylor © 2013


April Poem-a-Day Challenge, Day 3

Thought I would try a villanelle for today’s prompt: Write a tentative poem.


All of life’s plans are unlikely to be kept,baby_steps
but we push forward and stumble in the dark
unsure, urgent like a baby’s first step.

I cannot remember the last time I slept
soundly in a man’s arms. My mind’s at work
planning ahead, hoping our promises are kept.

You say taking it slow is better, except
my desire is left hanging like a question mark—
unsure, urgent like a baby’s first step.

But my only fear is that you’d rather let
our time wind down in a natural arc.
No need to make plans unlikely to be kept.

I’m used to giving my all and receiving neglect,
reaching for true love (an arbitrary benchmark?)
that is urgent and unsure like a baby’s first step.

It would be easier for my heart to accept
your goodbye kiss and not this irreverent spark
that plans for a future unlikely to be kept
like the unsure urgency of a baby’s first step.

~Pamela L. Taylor © 2013

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April Poem-a-Day Challenge, Day 2

Prompt (Two for Tuesday): Write a bright poem. Write a dark poem.Bright_Moon_in_the_Dark_Night_by_nightmares06


We worship suns,
shoot for stars,
land on moons.
Light shapes our days
adjusts our moods,
drives us to walk down
life’s cold and lonely
tunnels, led by outstretched
hands, stumbling over
our own feet. We’d rather seek
hope’s pale flicker than live
in a darkness that obscures
our vision, forces us
to hands and knees
in its presence, until
we are frozen in place
by the fear of solitude
and the internal mysteries
we long to embrace.



April Poem-A-Day Challenge: Day 1

For the fourth year, I am participating in the Poem-A-Day Challenge in celebration of National Poetry Month. Along with other Living Poetry members, I use prompts from the Poetic Asides blog for the 30 days. As I promised myself, I am going to share my poetry more by posting the PAD challenge poems to the blog. I hope you enjoy!

Prompt: A new arrival

When Boredom Comes

She slips in under the doorjamb, dragged in

by the last crossed off item on your to-do list.

She loosens her clutches and plops down

silently on your clutter-free desk. She triesyawn2

to be helpful—rearranging the office supplies

to your liking: shifting the tape dispenser to the left

side then back to the right, placing the stapler

next to it—no, behind it—separating paper clips

from binder clips, sorting and counting each type

by size. You watch her straighten and re-straighten

pictures on the wall, line up chachkies, knick-knacks,

and doodads along the tops of bookcases, make

the books stand erect and alphabetized. She’s given up

dusting, but doesn’t mind a mop and broom or washing

a window or two. But before long, she’s done everything

she can and leaves you alone to finish what she started.

~Pamela L. Taylor © 2013