Reader Poem by Olga Garcia Echevarria

Olga Garcia Echevarria wrote this poem in response to the prompt “To pimp a butterfly.”

To Pimp a Butterfly

In Michoacan, we trekked the steep dusty hills
towards the sun, monarchs danced in the air
like our dead, circling softly above our heads,
making of the sky a festival of swirling bright orange wings.

When we reached the summit, the trees hid beneath
rustling blankets of butterflies. There were millions.

Perhaps it would have been enough to stand very still
and open ourselves up slowly, like giant flowers. The moments,
like the butterflies, were fleeting. Instead, we seized our cameras
eagerly, wanting to trap them forever in our pictures.

Reader Poem by Trista Hurley-Waxali

Trista Hurley-Waxali wrote this poem in response to the prompt “Home of child goddess unshaken.”

Response to Home of child goddess unshaken

When i imagine the four walls full
of memories, I think of the various hotel
rooms that I’ve stayed at.
No where exotic comes to mine, really just all of them.

Some would be local to where I’m living or want to live, the cliche, near
and far, expensive and cheap.
Where my memory feels like a strung together set
of room charges.

Where the sense of being anonymous for even
a weekend becomes addicting.
When the rest of week I work hard to
hide away from my past.

I would steal the hotel pens as a reminder
of my journey home. Where now each one rests in my
pencil case on my desk. I use them as I note escape routes
and throw them out when they run dry.
Like the fear held in the one time prison in
my past. The very room that I actively enter and redo to make space
to hold new memories.

These rooms are starting again starting to feel like home.
Somewhere between the duvet and the 24 hour room service.
Maybe it’s when I started booking them under
my name with a joint credit card. A card that has the funds to
payout the $9 M&M’s and the half bottle of champagne.

Reflections on the Process — Chiwan Choi

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Thoughts on the Disarticulation Process

chiwan choi

Over the years, the one thing that I have never been able to prepare for while setting out on a writing project is the element of life, the surprises it brings upon you, the chaos/sadness/joy that comes unexpectedly. It affects the way I work, what I wanted to say, how much time I have to say it. And it was no different this time. While in the middle of this project, so many Life things occurred that took my time and energy and focus away. All these things are challenges in themselves, but having to write, to speak, with words dictated by someone else’s prompt, then ultimately, using only a limited amount of words that have been given to you by someone else, really frustrated me. Which led to the questions—What are words? Who do they belong to? What does it mean to be constrained? Do words equal privilege? Do words equal identity? And ultimately, who am I speaking for when we are assigning sequences to shared vocabulary?

May dis•articulations poem —Terry Wolverton

In May, Terry gave collaborating poet Chiwan Choi four prompts. He engaged in fevered writing with each prompt and gave her the results. This poem is composed by Terry of words from Chiwan’s fevered writing.

The Bear Mother

She is pregnant with mistake.
She gathers photos—Tamir Rice,
Freddie Gray—everyone she did not protect.
Her sentence: To keep a list of goodbyes.
She tries to forget the nameless ones
but they crawl into her years.

Memories jump her bones, pimp her mercy
on a downtown sidewalk. Cement does not
catch her, church does not bless her.
Not your goddess, not your pet,
she swallows her handmade tragedy.
Her windows open to darkness.

Say her name with the mouths of alleys;
hold her with a hard old smile.
In her bed, the hours crumble,
this partial home of water, skin, light.
When you find welts on your arm
don’t ask if her hands left them.

This woman thirsts for nobody.
She’s not a child. Mountains
do not bend toward her rain.
She does not wait
for mourning to begin.
She will punch the sun blind.

May dis•articulations poem — Chiwan Choi

At the beginning of the month, Chiwan gave Terry four prompts. She engaged in fevered writing with each of them and gave the results to Chiwan, who then used the words from that fevered writing to create this dis•articulations poem.

way of answering

who are we
that they kill us

redefines us
as motor oil and blood

don’t we remember
one must be young

a mirror that cannot imagine
thinking meant having ideas

the lip split
mutating faster than we can understand

that we are
past her future

our imaginations
disintegrated

like cheekbones
and a vengeful god

drink to forget
dancing on the graves

all wrong
and not so pretty now

we’re the residue
of the sacrificial lambs

signing up for a past
rearranged
shattered
dislocated

while pretending
no one cares
that they kill us
because they can

Reader Poem — Tina Yang

Tina Yang wrote this poem in response to a prompt by Chiwan Choi:

Russell Brand, He Looks Like Jesus But He Ain’t

Jesus appears in branded potatoes holding bread high
pitches snakes and fish across Pike Place Market each day.
Squeaks, “Hi! That’s the man!” a la Robin Williams meme style
each time he wants a lollipop,
that’s my Jesus and he don’t walk on water.

Jesus sends the Dalai Lama an email each day of dogs
barking, romping across the meadows
they both giggle, snuffle and laugh, they’re men.
They used to play the kazoos and kerfloos but now,
ah now, there’s a drum to glam and YouTube to hang,
Russell Brand to man, Katy Perry to bang–
Grow out those pube hairs, girlfriend;
stand there streaming rainbows,
we all gotta spin dollars out of these dreams, baby;
Made in China dolls.

Reader Poem — Tina Yang

Tina Yang contributed this Reader Poem based on Chiwan Choi’s prompt:

Our Demand is Simple: Stop Killing Us

Stop all the blasts, the paper pen that shoots souls.
Stop all of the napalm gas disguised as ice cream known as ignorance.
Stop perpetuating the myth that the CIA stands for cooks and FBI for homes.
Stop telling us that MJ is alive and with Elvis on the corner of Sunset and Vine.
Stop telling me to go under the knife, there’s a lamb there that’s my sister.
Stop slicing and dicing up my genitals.
Stop the kissing of babies, they’re poisoned apples.
Stop all the cocks of the Republic.
Stop telling me that Mom and Dad are Die and Pie, they’re ponies but I’m not.
Stop telling me Cardboard is Hardboard and they’re food.
Stop that Vanity Fair bullet train that entered Kurt Cobain’s brain.
Stop snuffling over corpses and start sniffing live bodies.
Stop telling me that this is how it has to be and pick up an ax and shovel,
we all gotta get working and start living for one another.

May Fevered Writing — Terry Wolverton

Terry Wolverton produced the following fevered writing based on four prompts provided by this month’s collaborating poet, Chiwan Choi.

Researchers discover fracking fluids in Pennsylvania well water, but no one cares. They’re drunk on money. That well has pesticides and chemical solvents and fertilizer and motor oil and blood and animal waste and the residue of all the prescription medicines people toss down the drain, so what’s a little fracking fluid to add to the cocktail? We’re mutating faster than we can understand, making our kids autistic, giving ourselves cancer; no wonder we get Alzheimer’s. We drink to forget.

Russell Brand voted world’s 4th most influential thinker.
This redefines what it means to think. To think, one must be famous. One must be young and have a big media platform. One must be semi-hunky in a scruffy sort of way, and have sculpted muscles, all the while pretending none of this matters. To think, one needs to have a slightly sarcastic way of answering the reporter’s questions, all the while seeming sincere and passionate. I used to think that thinking meant having ideas, but now I see I was all wrong.

Our demand is simple: Stop killing us.
But who are we to make such a demand? Don’t we remember signing up for this—to be the sacrificial lambs? They kill us because we are a threat to them. They kill us because they have lost their souls. They kill us because their god is a vengeful god. They kill us because they can. They kill us because, as they have imagined us, we are already dead. They kill us so we don’t kill them first. We demand, but can we make our imaginations more powerful than theirs?

Here is the Face of Civil Rights.
The face has been rearranged, the left eye shattered, the nose broken, the cheekbone disintegrated, the lip split, the jaw dislocated, the collarbone smashed, the windpipe broken, the right ear sliced off. They hold up a mirror: “Not so pretty now, are you?” but she looks and sees something else, something those holding the mirror cannot imagine. She sees her past and she sees her future. She sees herself dancing, dancing on their graves.

Readers are encouraged to write your own poems inspired by the prompts or the fevered writing and post them to comments. The best poem we receive this month will be awarded a $25 prize.

May Fevered Writing — Chiwan Choi

This month’s collaborating poet, Chiwan Choi, produced the following fevered writing based on four prompts given him by Terry Wolverton:

Man punches bear to protect his pet Chihuahua.
And here’s a partial list of things this brave man didn’t protect: Tamir Rice. Freddie Gray. The handmade shacks in Nepal. My grandmother during her final days when we had to write her name on all her clothes so she wouldn’t forget. Another person jumping from a downtown window during lunch hour. 214 pregnant girls. My bones that keep bending.

Home of child goddess unshaken while everything crumbles around it, but what does it mean to be blessed when all the walls that you’d embedded your memories into – the welt that the man from the church left of your 15 year old arm; the only photo from mother’s youth, the one with the smile – is nothing more than a growing mountain that nameless people gather around, mourn blindly, walk away from toward a newer tragedy.

If he says he’s woman, he’s a woman.
And if he says I am ugly, I am ugly. If he says let there be light, the darkness crawls out of bed and leaves me without a goodbye. If he says you were a mistake, there are many alleys with mouths open to swallow. If he says he’s a woman, what is my mother? If he says he is leaving, if he says you haven’t tried hard enough, if he says stop by and eat, where do I find enough air?

To pimp a butterfly is no greater than holding my hands open in front of me to catch the rain. Nobody asks me what is my goodness. we assume thirst when we have waited in the sun for an April mercy. To begin a sentence that stops your heart in the middle of a sidewalk as three young people drop their childhoods on the cement and run past you is no greater than water drop on your skin.

Readers who are contemplating writing your own poems may work with just the prompts or choose to use one or more passages of fevered writing to inspire your poems. Best Reader poem we receive in May will win a $25 prize.

May Poetry Prompts

Prompts are drawn from the media—print, broadcast or social.

Collaborating poet Chiwan Choi offered these prompts to Terry Wolverton:

Researchers Discover Fracking Fluids in Pennsylvania Well Water (i09.com)

“Our Demand is Simple: Stop Killing Us.” (nytimes)

Russell Brand voted world’s 4th most influential thinker. (the guardian)

Here is the Face of Civil Rights (gawker.com)

Terry Wolverton offered these prompts to collaborating poet Chiwan Choi:

  • …Man punches bear to protect his per Chihuahua (latimes.com)
  • Home of child goddess unshaken (financialtimes.com)
  • If he says he’s a woman, he’s a woman (Cosmopolitan)
  • To pimp a butterly (album title by Kendrick Lamar)

We invite readers to write poems in response to one or more prompts (or the fevered writing that results from these prompts) and submit me in the Comments section. The best Reader Poem we receive in May will win a $25 prize.