“Rats” by Devin Williams

Devin Williams




Nesting in abandoned burrows,
Coastal cliffs,

And caves.

I am present when food is abundant.
Companion of Daikoku,
Savior of Sesshu,

First sign of the zodiac.

I am the scavenger of the night,

Recycling human refuse.

I am ruler of the underland.

Symbol of success
And prosperity,

Industry, and intelligence.

A prisoner of science,

I give you self-knowledge

And awareness.

I listen

With my nearly-naked ears.
I learn
From watching and repeating.
I feel

With my body and my soul.

It is only language that separates us.

Yet, you avoid
And attack me.
You don’t know me,
How can you claim to know how I feel?



Note from Williams on the use of found material and research in this poem: While browsing the reference section of the library, I came across The Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in Art by Hope B. Werness.  I immediately turned to the page about one of my favorite animals, rats.  I was intrigued by the fact that rats represented so many different things in cultures around the world.  I knew I wanted to write a poem celebrating this often unappreciated and hated species for their intelligence and sentience.  So, I picked out the most empowering words and phrases from the book, and combined them with my own knowledge about rats, as well as facts I found in Wildlife of the Mid-Atlantic by John H. Rappole.

“Caught” by Jada Gossett

Jada Gossett


She finds herself wandering the after-school playground
on tall leaning metal twists of uncertainty,
starting a new life after what once was stable.
A single push of the memory of Dad packing his bags
gives her all the momentum to keep the
two-by-three arc of her turns:
an effort to keep her head on straight by making
Everything Else spin.

The slide keeps this six-year-old girl occupied,
swiveling between houses of outgrown love,
curving tightly into itself.
“Three-times-five is fifteen” she rotes in preparation
for a cruel test of aptitude forced on a kid
who can barely hold her pencil straight from the trauma
of a cycle where she only sees Dad on Saturdays.

On a different dawn she finds the merry-go-round,
her head much taller than the guarding bar now,
half of her stressing about a boy in class, and half
watching over brothers of a new family,
five and eight, tossing crunch golden leaves.
They don’t really need her there but the gap between
eight and thirteen justifies her presence in her mother’s eyes.

Thirteen through twenty-one years stretch beyond their time,
or at least that’s what the dissonance between
her mind, the dates on the calendar,
and her syllabi shouted out to the gaping darkness
of that same after-school playground.
She sprints a perfect arc in the dark looking for answers,
or an escape from the spiral where she got caught
between battles of two sets of families
that would never make one whole.

Song Title Poem


Create a poem based on song titles.

Make a list of song titles from an album. You could select the collection at random, perhaps one you have on hand, or alternatively you could select a collection that has specific meaning for you, already.

For example, here are the titles from “Johnny’s Greatest Hits” (Johnny Mathis, Columbia).

Chances are
All the time
The twelfth of never
When sunny gets blue
When I am with you
Wonderful! Wonderful!
It’s not for me to say
Come to me
Wild is the wind
Warm and tender
No love
I look at you

Use the titles as the spine or structure for a writing. I love vinyl and tried it with quite a few collections. I was doubtless influenced by the object itself, the photographs, memories associated with the music or the physical object, etc. As the goal for the first draft, at least, I made a few rules. I used all of the titles. I kept them in the same order. I made only slight changes (like a pronoun or verb form). My strategy was more to expand on the word or phrase. Usually I’m ending up with poems that are (at least in early form) 14-16 lines.

I tried to allow myself to use the words/ideas suggested by the titles. A phrase like “warm and tender” is familiar, almost too familiar–next door to cliche, really. So using those words is a good challenge. Isn’t defamiliarizing language a big part of writing, after all?  I’m cautiously optimistic, having written numerous poems–at least some have potential to be finished.

Recently my parents gave me a bunch of their old records. I’m finding it most appealing to use albums for this writing with which I’m not familiar. Before editing, I might listen to the songs a time or two. Even if you usually don’t need a “prompt” for your writing, this writing could still work as warm-up, or as a section or chapter in an ongoing project you have, even relating to a theme or character you are developing.


For an example, go to:

“When There’s Lightning” by Sara Aykit

When There’s Lightning

Read the skies for storms
Thunder rolling in
Close the doors
Close your eyes
Hold fast to your breaking heart, darling
The sky is a velvet black,
stallion stampeding stopping for no one.
Thunder treading ground
There’s a tornado surely coming
Clouds are crying
Tossing thunder like children throw tantrums
Whipping winds howling
For you.

Peek from your covers
Peek out the windows
blue skies
Singing birds and sunshine
But you know
there’s thunder coming for you
It’s all in your head
But there’s thunder rolling in

–Sara Aykit