Reader Poem — Mellanie Crouell

This untitled poem was written by Melanie Crouell in response to one or more of our September Poetry Prompts

Standing at this door
Don’t know how I got here
I feel this breeze
As if
It welcomes me
Continue inhaling this
Breeze turns into an aroma
Earthy, sweet, sexy
I want to eat this sweetness
Lust over the sexiness
Watch the double Dutch God gave
Over and over
And over
Over, over, over, over
Did I say over again
The aroma knocks at my door
I look up
Coming towards me
Like a dream from a music video
He tips his hat and
I do too!
This darn cowboy


September dis•articulations poem — Terry Wolverton

For our collaboration, Terry gave collaborating poet Donna Frazier four writing prompts. Donna engaged in fevered writing with each of them and gave the results back to Terry, who then used the words from that fevered writing to create this dis•articulations poem.


You, cowboy, did not dream the trail—
needles of red dust circling
in unexpected dialect,
cha-cha of the diamond streets.

I shook a river from my hair;
it still flowed the color of ink.
Tattoos sprouted on my legs — deer
striping a path, shade of cedar.

The conversation was extreme—
not human, but something tender
falling from the tongues of roses,
unanticipated music.

Mouth of cactus, forest of prey.
Why does the turtle try to fly?
Fingers the color of saplings,
we waltz on a green edge alone.

The vibrational speech of skin
cannot be slowed or stopped, sounds like
a lasso tying me to a
swing, odd crunch of leaves as I drop.

September dis•articulations poem — Donna Frazier

For our dis•articulations collaboration, Donna gave Terry four writing prompts. Terry engaged in fevered writing with each of them and gave the results back to Donna, who then used the words from that fevered writing to create this dis•articulations poem.

What the trees know

Once you were bird float and tree song,
cloud mouth pressed to sky, no desire

but light. You were spirit teased from
time and its beautiful hooks, matter

loosed and crooning in the mirrored
night. It’s said we were kicked out,

bleeding into cities, jailed and judged
without wonder. But beloved,

I have glimpsed you gazing into
narcissus and manzanita,

changed by the thought of escape.
You home to the big old trees,

giving yourself over to God and his
armies of leaves, to birds spreading

down layettes on the concrete banks
of rivers. Our nature is to want,

to try, to balloon into yearning,
but beloved, be still, be faithful

only to now. You are moon and air
and lover. Freed, you are only expanse.

September Fevered Writing — Terry Wolverton

Terry Wolverton produced this fevered writing  based on four prompts given her by this month’s collaborating poet, Donna Frazier. Donna will be writing a new poem incorporating her choice of these words.

Baby may dangle temporarily but sooner or later they float up into the air and hover over the city in their brightly colored layettes like balloons accidentally loosed by a careless child. The babies are unafraid, being so high in the sky; they like having a view of everything—the tops of trees and the puffy clouds and the roofs of homes and the flag poles at the school they will never have to go to now. They speak with the birds and they speak to God. You can hear them crooning their little songs.

Hooker’s Manzanita
It has a bad reputation, but don’t judge. You don’t know what you would do if you were hungry or had gotten kicked out of the house or were addicted to drugs you had no money to buy. Why a hook, I always wonder? Is it because they supposedly lure you in? If anything, these women seem like the ones who are hooked, like fish once free in the river, then dangling by the mouth and bleeding. She liked to do it underneath the trees, the big old trees with spreading leaves.

Not by works of law because living things are subject to our own laws, directions of destiny and the expanse of spirit. You cannot pin us down or confine us to certain rooms or make us do things we don’t want to do. You can try, and you do try, and you have courts and police and judges and jails and armies but still you are unable to change the course of nature. The river will overflow its banks despite the concrete and the lover will do the hurtful thing despite promises and no matter how you press, we will escape.

Reflective light right side up
It’s said that Narcissus stared into the surface of the pool and glimpsed his own image. He lived in a time without mirrors and he thought it was another man he saw—a beautiful young man. He could not do anything then but spend his days gazing into the water, yearning for his object of desire, who always left him at night. How the moon teased him, giving him the merest suggestion of his beloved, shadowy and uncertain. Only the sun was faithful.

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 September will win a $25 prize.

September Fevered Writing — Donna Frazier

This month’s collaborating poet, Donna Frazier, produced this fevered writing based on four prompts given by Terry Wolverton. Terry will be writing a new poem incorporating her choice of these words.

Cowboy cologne … smells like what I imagine cactus smells like, dust and point, odd unanticipated flower just stuck there on the end of a paddle. I don’t know how they apply it, the flower or the scent, but you can feel it coming like some cedar path you weren’t expecting on the side of the street you’ve lived on for so many years you’ve stopped seeing it or the forest at its edge, saplings when you moved in. Birds are circling the trunks like lunberjacks or cowboys in that flow of herd, the river of it that they lasso and tie up.

Deer are particularly fond of roses. It’s the petals, which fall from the mouth like tongues, speech flying to the ground, unexpected thought. They eat alone, the deer in the rose garden, the colors tender, the sounds crunching in the mouth. I can’t understand the dialect of rose they speak, but they look up as I pass and I drop leaves, a conversation we leave on the trail behind us. I had tasted the buds myself but found them tough. No allergies though. Later I dreamed of clover and running.

Garden dancer cha-cha. I say they oughta waltz or stand still, but I know I’m wrong. They’ve planted snow peas and asparagus and the music is some kind of fertilizer, the dance a kind of vibration therapy. Okay. I could give in to a little swing, a little something shaking the shoots and my hair taking on a little green in solidarity, the shoots sprouting from fingers that might or might not be mine. In the shade, the dance slows to a single cha, but the plants anticipate the beats and keep on moving.

Extreme snake tattoo. I don’t know why the snakes need them. Diamonds, stripes, that “blend with sand” pattern, seem like enough. But some want more, like the red flashes on the side of a turtle’s head, that kind of bling. Snakes on the arms and legs of a human? They hang from limbs waiting for prey I guess, trying to blend in. Inside the skins, reptilian and otherwise, there’s ink flowing, needles and buzz, some identity exchanged.

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 September will win a $25 prize.

September Poetry Prompts

These prompts were each drawn from some printed text within Descanso Gardens — signage, brochures, books in the bookstore, even an interaction with another visitor who was carrying a Bible.

Terry Wolverton offered these prompts to collaborating poet Donna Frazier:

• Cowboy cologne (Descanso Gardens interpretive pamphlet)

• Deer are particularly fond of roses (Descanso Gardens signage)

• Garden Dancer Cha Cha (taxonomic sign – plant name: Cordyline)

• Extreme Snakes Tattoos (book title)

Collaborating poet Donna Frazier offered these prompts to Terry Wolverton:

• Babies may dangle temporarily (From interpretive exhibit on Descanso’s animals. The babies in question are opossums.)

• Reflected light, right-side up (From exhibit text on camera obscura)

• Hooker’s manzanita (arctostaphylus hooker, “wayside): Plant label

“Not by works of law” (Text from a garden visitor’s Bible.)

(Walking near the Haaga Gallery, I spotted a man carrying something under his arm that might be a journal, might be a book.
“Excuse me, is that a book you’re carrying?”
“Yes, it’s the Bible?”
“Would you mind opening it and turning to a random page?
[Pulls book from under his arm and starts to open it.]
“Are you seeking guidance?”
“No, it’s for a project.”
“So could you pick a random passage?”
“How about a NOT random passage? [turns with some intent to the back of the Bible.]
I glance at the pages he’s opened to and let my eyes focus on something. “Not by works of law” is what comes to the surface.)

We invite readers to write poems in response to one or more prompts (or the fevered writing that results from these prompts) and submit  in the Comments section. The best Reader Poem we receive by September 30 will be awarded a $25 prize.

September Collaborating Poet — Donna Frazier

Donna at the Ritz_poet1962cropGLYNN

In September, Donna Frazier will collaborate with Terry Wolverton on new dis•articulations poems. This month is special, because Donna and Terry’s collaborations, which took place earlier, will appear as part of the exhibition, “Oasis,” curated by John David O’Brien, that opens at Descanso Gardens on September 13. Donna and Terry will be reading from their work at the Gardens on September 13 at 3 p.m.

Donna Frazier: Realized early that poetry is an oasis for a nonlinear mind flying about in a linear world. Fell in love with it. Spent time with great teachers like William Matthews, Marie Ponsot and Terry Wolverton. Is always writing and editing, much of the time for other people, but in the best moments for her own muses. Has published work in places like Mudlark and First Things. A collection of her dreamy and practical inspiration for writers is on her website at

Winner, dis•articulations Reader Poem for August —Henry Medina


Henry Medina received his BA in English from Cornell University. When he is not writing for fun, he is playing with his chickens, bunnies and piglets on his farm. He is currently writing his first book, a collection of short stories.

His poem, “Invitation to CA Conrad” appeared on the site on August 19, 2015:

Henry will receive a $25 honorarium for the prize. We hope readers will be inspired to participate in this process by writing your own poems. Each month we’ll award a $25 prize for the best Reader Poem we receive.