In Bed With A Book

In police procedurals they are dying all over town,

the life ripped out of them, by gun, bumper, knife,

hammer, dope, etcetera, and no clues at all.

All through the book the calls come in: body found

in bed, car, street, lake, park, garage, library,

and someone goes out to look and write it down.

Death begins life’s whole routine to-do

in these stories of our fellow citizens.


Nobody saw it happen, or everyone saw,

but can’t remember the car. What difference does it make

when the child will never fall in love, the girl will never

have a child, the man will never see a grandchild,
         the old maid

will never have another cup of hot cocoa at bedtime?

Like life, the dead are dead, their consciousness,

as dear to them as mine to me, snuffed out.

What has mind to do with this, when the earth is bereaved?

I lie, with my dear ones, holding a fictive umbrella,
while around us falls the real and acid rain.
The handle grows heavier and heavier in my hand.
Unlike life, tomorrow night under the bedlamp
by a quick link of thought someone will find out why,
and the policemen and their wives and I will feel better.
But all that’s toward the end of the book. Meantime, tonight,
without a clue I enter sleep’s little rehearsal.


Mona van Duyn, from Near Change


1. What kind of reading do you like? Can you describe it in phrases like this poet did?
2. What is your bedtime routine? How do you unwind at the end of a busy day?
3. Is it important to you that a novel have a “happy ending?” Describe how a satisfying story should conclude.


Copyrighted material. Reprinted for educational/therapeutic use.
Writing Prompts Copyright © 2015 Featherstone, All rights reserved.

Categories: Uncategorized

Dividend of the Social Opt Out

How lovely it is not to go. To suddenly take ill.

Not seriously ill, just a little under the weather.

To feel slightly peaked, indisposed. Plagued by

a vague ache, or a slight inexplicable chill.


Perhaps such pleasures are denied

to those who never feel obliged. If there are such.


How pleasant to convey your regrets. To feel sincerely

sorry, but secretly pleased to send them on their way

without you. To entrust your good wishes to others.

To spare the equivocal its inevitable rise.


How nice not to hope that something will happen,

but to lie on the couch with a book, hoping that

nothing will. To hear the wood creak and to think.

It is lovely to stay without wanting to leave.


How delicious not to care how you look,

clean and uncombed in the sheets. To sip

brisk mineral water, to take small bites

off crisp Saltines. To leave some on the plate.


To fear no repercussions. Nor dodge

the unkind person you bug.


Even the caretaker has gone to the party.

If you want something you will have to

get it yourself. The blue of the room seduces.

The cars of the occupied sound the wet road.


You indulge in a moment of sadness, make

a frown at the notion you won’t be missed.

This is what it is. You have opted to be

forgotten so that your thoughts might live.


 Jennifer Moxley

from The Open Secret, © 2014


1. When and under what circumstance would you choose to “be forgotten so that your thoughts might live?”

2. When you’re home alone, how do you dress, act, feel? Do you kick off your shoes, wear a favorite old shirt, do without washing your hair? How does your “relaxed at home” state differ from how you prepare to go to work, to the grocery store, to a party?

3. How often do you have a day when you know “nothing will happen?”



Copyrighted material. Reprinted for educational/therapeutic use.
Writing Prompts Copyright © 2015 Featherstone, All rights reserved.

Categories: Uncategorized

Living Without Horses

“I believe in the gift of the horse, which is magic…”

         Maxine Kumin


Living without horses

is like breathing into the lungs

but never further:

never deep into the great cavity below

where horses of emerald and blue

fill the void with their squeals,

their thudding feet,

their waltzes into deep space.


To live without horses

is to slow down on the Sunset Highway

at a glimpse of chestnut rump

or a pair of pricked ears

above a bay face with a kind eye

that gazes toward the forests

draped like shawls over the Coast Range

where bluejays and woodpeckers ring out false alarms


and to breathe in the sweat and dust

of the police horse found unexpectedly

tethered to your parking meter after lunch –

then, at night, to rewind the videotape over

and over at the Budweiser commercial

sends you flying with the royal herd,

manes and tails like curtains of water,

nostrils more finely flared than the shelled human ear,


their elephantine feet

pounding the doors of a shuddering underworld

in the slowest waltz you’ve ever heard —

until, suddenly

you’re hearing it in your abdomen

and it spills over into arteries and bones

pulsing through all your crevices

like blood from the heart’s pump.


To live without horses is to carry them with you always:

the one who lifted you over the tiger trap,

the one who kicked you when you deserved it,

and the dappled grey one who lay down under you

and died as you ran away

unable to stay with him on that path

beside the golf course, breathing in

what  you would search and search for in the years to come.


Judith Barrington – Horses and the Human Soul© 2004



1. If you watched the Belmont Stakes, I hope you write about it!
2. Extol the wonders of horses in your own poem.
3. Write about a challenge that takes extreme stamina, speed, skill, and/or phenomenal luck.


Copyrighted material. Reprinted for educational/therapeutic use.

Writing Prompts Copyright © 2015 Featherstone, All rights reserved.

Categories: Uncategorized

Soda Crackers

You soda crackers! I remember
when I arrived here in the rain,
whipped out and alone.
How we shared the aloneness
and quiet of this house.
And the doubt that held me
from fingers to toes
as I took you out
of your cellophane wrapping
and ate you, meditatively,
at the kitchen table
that first night with cheese,
and mushroom soup. Now,
a month later to the day,
an important part of us
is still here. I’m fine.
And you — I’m proud of you, too.
You’re even getting remarked
on in print! Every soda cracker
should be so lucky.
We’ve done all right for
ourselves. Listen to me.
I never thought
I could go on like this
about soda crackers.
But I tell you,
the clear and sunshiny
days are here, at last.

Raymond Carver
from Good Poems for Hard Times, © 2005


1. Clear and sunshiny days are here, too, in Southern Oregon. What’s the weather like where you are today? Write a “weather report” poem. Include not only factual info about the weather, but your metaphorical weather report, too.
2. Get some soda crackers, cheese, and mushroom soup (or other food you like) and as you eat it, write an ode to your meal!
3. Okay, think back to something you ate a month ago. If you can’t remember, speculate! Write about how it was your companion at the time, how you were feeling then, how it is “still with you” in some fashion. You might even write about something you ate years ago, in childhood, perhaps — something memorable. (It doesn’t have to have tasted good, either!)


Copyrighted material. Reprinted for educational/therapeutic use.
Writing Prompts Copyright © 2015 Featherstone, All rights reserved.

Categories: Uncategorized