NaPoWriMo 2018

National Poetry Month Challenge: Write one poem a day for 30 days.

April 2018

“Early Bird” Prompt

My love, my dearest,
my warm slice of sunshine
leaving bittersweet rings
on my white paper heart:

I fall asleep dreaming how
you’ll greet me come morning—oh!
how your chameleon skin enthralls me!:
heart-stained or tree-limbed, sprinkled
with stars sprawling through galaxies
down to your abyss,
mud-thick, tar-dark, and utterly endless.

Your aroma coaxes my senses
awake, stirs my cravings right down
to the veins. You roll across my tongue
full-bodied and acidic: you,
sending my neurons to mingle,
my fingers to twitch.

Black or sugared, steamed
with milk, you have me forever
in your heart-racing grip.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Early-Bird Prompt

Day 1

You are a secret I keep back
in the farthest corner of drawers,
tucked between sheets,
digitized into files and folders,
password protected, names discreet.

Every so often, I flip through you
like a journal or album, a blur of Axe
and hazel, fingers and freckles,
cigarette smoke and piano melodies.

Sometimes you slash me
open like paper cuts, sometimes you soften
me down into satin, pluck away at
nerve endings like they were electric
guitar strings until I crescendo, imagining what it
would be like to blossom against your skin.

No matter which, it always ends the same:
hunched in the shower, sweat-soaked
and tear-stained, steaming you
from my pores, scrubbing off my secret shame.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 2

I.
I lift my chin, keep my gaze up,
wondering if I’m succeeding at
hiding my fear with my trusty mask,
plastered with tough eyes;
my confidence weaved from string
and wax. A gap in the concrete
catches the rubber sole
of my boots at the toe,
throws me off balance. My mask slips,
briefly revealing childlike panic,
eyes wide and twitching,
but only a second
goes by, as the mask glides back
like steel over my eyes.
Chin up (I could cry),
head high (are they watching?)

II.
Jut out your chin, raise your head high.
You are what you appear:
confident, tough. Give ‘em that
don’t-fuck-with-me glare.
Fault line approaching! You got this,
you got this, you got thi—
No! No! You’ve ripped yourself open!
Quick! Tuck in your vulnerability!
Bury your panice! Laugh it off
but don’t look crazy!
You meant to do that, after all.
Chin up (don’t cry),
head high (they’re watching).
Head high!

III.
She walks briskly, chin level,
eyes ahead. Her attempt at a front
softens at the edges.
Suddenly, she lurches forward,
arms flailing without grace,
legs shuffling in the dance
to steady, find balance.
Vulnerability flashes quick
in her youthful eyes—ah,
another human!
A shared secret tugs at her mouth,
just slightly, before she shakes it off,
resumes her catwalk strut.
Chin up.
Head high.
She’s got this.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 3

Winter Squalls
The Porcelain Dolls
Revelers
Soundwaves
Angel Sunshine Rainbow Babes
Old Souls
Lost Souls
Three Rabid Wolves
Electric Killers
Echoes in Chambers
The Dinks
Stag and Doe
Riptides on Pluto
Sugar-High Rush
Sticky Hot Glue Guns
Tropic Penguins
Austin in Autumn
Cat Claws
Moondance
Howlers and Holograms

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 4

Having ascended the dark bowels
of the Cesky Krumlov Castle,
I stand at the top of the “towerest of towers,”
Renaissance-styled and tiered like a pastry,
proudly protruding from a small Czech town
plucked straight out of a fairy tale featuring
enchanted roses, beauty, and beasts.
I take the three sixty-degree route
‘round the open-air peak, retracing century-
old steps once walked by guardsmen
and a mourning Rosenberg lady.
I stop long enough to feel the fresh Spring air
frolick against my face,
to photograph the orange rooftops
surrounding the castle tower—pasteled
like a cake and rivaled only by St. Jost’s
turquoise cupola—and watch
the village sprawl into pastures into hills
and stretch on to the horizon. Suddenly
I’m an ocean-tinged brogue
in the thick of the Atlantic, and I can’t decide
if the wind’s picked up or if all the breath
has escaped from my lungs,
as if for years, I hadn’t been breathing.
Other tourists are waiting, cameras poised,
pupil behind lense, so I reluctantly descend
the dark and narrow, winding staircase
one hundred and sixty-two steps,
but I haven’t stopped spiraling.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 5 – Translation

A woman sleeps on an island,
and from her hair are born abodes
of memories and wild birds.
Her body is a figurehead,
and they say that since
she slept on the island,
she seems to have been touched by the rains
of madness, that her hair blossoms in the sunsets
next to the music of the sea. Others say
that her eyelids draw maps of unusual geographies,
wild tattoos that she keeps solely
in the tenuous roundness of dreams.

A woman leaps from an island
and stops being herself,
free now of the Earth.
She sails and drinks
the immensity of the sea.
Seeds fill her hair that floats,
and she is an island
surrounded by stars.

– Marjorie Agosín, as translated by Kaitlin Meilert

Una Mujer Duerme en una Isla

Una mujer duerme en una isla
y del cabello nacen las moradas
de memorias y pájaros salvajes.
Su cuerpo es un mascarón de proa
y dicen que desde
que durmió en la isla
pareciera haber sido tocada por las lluvias
de la demencia, que su pelo florece en los atardeceres
junto a la música del mar. Otros dicen
que sus párpados dibujan mapas de extrañas geografías,
en la redondez tenue del sueño.

Una mujer duerme en una isla
y deja de ser ella misma
libre ahora de latierra.
Navega y bebe
la inmensidad del mar.
Las semillas llenan su pelo que flota
y ella es una isla
rodeada de estrellas.

– Marjorie Agosín

Prompt

Day 6

Did you like it better
when I wrote poems filled
with panic, heartbreak, ennui,
and you?

As did I,
as I did.

Now I write about castles and fish
and what it’s like to sit by a river
because it hurts too much to feel, to flutter
my heart’s folds and flaps,
watch ghosts flicker in the light like
unsettling dust.

So
no,
it’s not just you;
I keep secrets from myself, too.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Day 7

I wake to what I think
is a soft Spring rain,
but a harsh glint of sunlight
confronts my pupil,
and the rain is snow melting.
Afternoon naps are so disorienting,
I think to myself.
But when I fell asleep,
the world was dark and star deep.
I rollover, refusing
to confront the bright beams of reality,
its melting and shedding light,
its limbs and buds that blossom
while I stay rooted to winter,
sticking to sheets like snow sticks
to shadows and tongues to ice.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Day 8

They say these woods carry more than trees, earth, and bones,
more than a fairy tale’s woodsman or silver-blooded unicorns.
For deep in its bowels lies an ancient magic
that can make the heavens fall and time go static.
Stars drop like flies, the moon turns to liquid
dirt crawls on haunches and roots are lifted.
Some say they’ve seen a deer made of light,
a long, slender shadow fade into night.
Others say an alien will lure you from the path,
that there are winged creatures, half lizard, half bat.
But these are pure lore, stories for campfires,
creatures born of imaginations run wild.
The real magic lies in the cosmic experiments,
four humans given the power of elements:
a boy swallows the sun and sprouts wings from his spine,
a girl laps up moonlight and crouches into a canine,
a boy writhes in mud and crawls the earth as a shadow,
a girl drinks brine and spits out snow.
They say if you enter the woods after dark,
you’ll smell spice in the air, feel heat with no spark,
cross paths with a wave, look a shadow in the eye,
hear the croon of a howl pierce the cold, starry night.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 9

He came home to empty rooms,
hallways that stretched a river’s length,
doorways wide as canyons.
The sound of a pin drop
echoed throughout the valves
of the house, down to its intestines,
those slick innards,
despite the abandoned sofa,
pillows stuffed with feathers
that should have absorbed all sound
like a whirlpool swears a plane
or ship never existed.
They left in a hurry, packed only
what a pillowcase, or two, would carry:
a jar of peanut butter, a change of clothes,
canned food, pack of water bottles,
aspirin, a spoon, five framed family photos—
rectilinear rings of dust, punctuating
their absence. All that was left
was everything; all that was left
was nothing. All that was left
was the decay and gurgle of vocal chords
from the legless corpse crawling
with one outstretched hand
across the overgrown lawn.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 10

I shut my eyes and wake up
on the other side of my eyelids
into Paris, into a car nose-diving
off a bridge, into the underground:
blue-tinged, arctic, caked with ice.

Every surface shakes as my partner
violently tosses against the mattress
as I dodge crumbling dirt and rocks,
arms tossed over my head
like a helmet.

I ride the elevator down to level nine.
The cat is meowing, fading to a muffle
the further I sink down, until I can only hear water
drip and crack, as it freezes to ice.
I emerge from the elevator, shivering,
my body working without me to cocoon the blankets.

Someone stirs in the distance,
something brushes against my leg.
A piercing cackle, or the cat’s meow,
echoes through the gelid chambers.
A queen of ice rounds the corner
and looks me in the eye,
knowing more than I do, knowing what
lives down here, what grabs and bites.

Something cold presses up against my thigh,
and the cat’s meowing has hollowed to a moan.
I look down, slowly registering the frozen corpse
gripping my ankle with its icicle fingers,
but my body is molasses. Its teeth pierce my flesh,
and I cry out in pain or let out a whimper.

Now that it’s too late, my legs are like lightning.
I run to the elevator, manically pressing the button
that closes the door as the corpse lets out
a guttural guffaw, knowing more than I do
as the cat draws blood, and the elevator stops.

Stuck between floors, I collapse in defeat:
an eternity underground, another corpse
for the ice queen.
But as my head hits the ground, my eyes flutter open,
lungs sucking in air like their fresh
from the womb, eyes adjusting, body tossing beside me,
the cat’s meow filling the bedroom.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 11

We are alive, and we are rippled.
We breathe and sag,
skin draped and wrinkled
over our bones like white sheets
keeping off the dust.

We are alive, and we are taut.
We breathe and glisten,
skin stretched smooth like canvas
over our bones like we’re ready
to bear the wounds of art.

No matter which skin we wear
today, tomorrow, ten years from now,
blood runs all the same beneath.
The same heart beats, the same brain thinks.
Skin doesn’t age, it evolves,
bearing the art of living.

We are alive, and we are living.
We breathe and blossom,
skin and bone and muscle and ligament,
the miracle vessel
that keeps us going.

We are alive, and we are rippled.
We breathe, and we glisten.
Breathe, and we blossom.
We are alive, and we are living.
We are alive, and we are rippled.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 12

NaPoWriMo’s Day 13 featured participant poem.

Six months ago, I sought out shadows in the desert. Now I navigate them like minefields, tiptoeing around perimeters of invisible patches of ice that splatter across the sidewalks that stretch up and down 40th to Chicago Ave, where I catch the number 5 bus to Midtown, the only stretch of Minneapolis that’s familiar while the cold keeps me in for winter two extra months too long.

Four months in, and all I’ve seen is snow. If there’s grass in the backyard, I wouldn’t know. When I was still in Phoenix, I told myself there would be, as the burnt brown grass crunched beneath the feet. The grass is always greener, right?

Two jackrabbits dart across the yard, leaving tracks in the snow, as if they can hear my breath press up against the window. Yesterday we caught a clan of turkeys loitering in the road. Two years in Phoenix, I never once saw a squirrel. In the Bancroft neighborhood of south Minneapolis, the squirrels find holes in our garbage bins and rip up our bloated garbage bags, scavenging for bread crusts and orange peels.

Minneapolis is littered with trees. Filthy with them. I remind myself that they had leaves once and they will once again. I remind myself that the state’s 10,000 plus lakes aren’t always caked with ice. This winter I walked atop a frozen lake for the first time. Still sticking to the perimeter, afraid the ice would give way beneath me, and I would be in too much of a panic to remember how to save myself if the ice breaks. Carlos says, “You’ll hear it before it happens. You can just jump backwards.” I swell with doubt as I ask him to remind me again what to do if the ice breaks and I fall in. Stay calm while the shock of the cold fades. Kick your feet behind you so you come to a straight line. Keep kicking and use your arms to drag yourself across the ice. I walk across Lake Nokomis, hoping I won’t have to find out if those instructions are as easy as they sound.

I won’t be back around til summer.

Winter cakes autumn’s
corpses in frost, keeps April’s
rosebuds from blooming.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 13

Entwining is such
bitter joy,
game of gain and loss.

To gain a lover
is to lose
part of yourself.

To lose a lover
is to gain
a new broken heart.

Or you become fused
together,
attached at the hip.

Or you become worse:
side by side
but oceans apart.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Day 14

In dreams, the rowboat is metaphor for you, growing your muscles and facing challenges as you row through calm, choppy, and stormy waters. The water it courses is life, always moving, buoying us along, even if we stop rowing–because life doesn’t stop when we do.

If you’ve stopped rowing in your dreams and find yourself merely afloat, something might be awry in your life. To sit still at sea with limp ores might mean you’re sitting still in life. This could take several shapes, such as depression, injury, anxiety, or simple laziness.

But staying afloat is not living. To live you’ve got to grab life by the oars and slice through waves, navigate storms, trust the stars, and look to the horizon. We live, we learn, we grow by rowing forward and backward, sideways, in circles. We live, we learn, we grow by moving. We must be active participants in our lives to live our best and fullest lives.

If you’ve stopped rowing in your dreams, reflect on the current state of your life and yourself. Are you depressed? In between jobs? Suffering from an illness or injury that’s keeping you from your normal activities? Are you being a passive member of your life? Why? Talking to a trusted loved one or, even better, a therapist can help you discover what’s amiss in your life and help you get back to the life of your dreams, one in which your rowboat cuts swiftly through the water at the pace of your own muscles’ rhythm.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 15

The rain started and didn’t stop
for three days. Some rains fall
for a five-year stretch. Some rains
aren’t made of recycled water
and flecks of sky. Some rains
are knives, slicing through flesh,
bone, down into the heart.
Some rains are floods
that make dead weight of bodies.
My body is a log,
lodged in the muddy bed of a river.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Day 16

The cat slips like Jell-O behind the couch,
curling up in the shadows as he waits for it:
footsteps: mine, tip-toeing across
the old creaky floor.

As I peak over the lip of the couch, he darts quick,
out from the shadows! A streak of fur and whiskers
scampers across the room and around the corner.
I take my place behind a wall.

I wait for it: glowing eyes: his,
shining out from the dark caverns underneath
the mattress.
I peer around the door frame and jump
as he grazes me with his paw–Tag, you’re it!

–and darts back across the expanse of the house
to the shadows between the wall and the couch
to wait for it: heartbeats: mine, working double time
to keep up with his rhythm.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 17

That summer, we spent our days ankle deep
in the creek behind Grandma’s house, watching out
for coyotes, catching frogs with bare hands,
furnished them with grass, twigs, rocks, and water.
We named our favorite Arrow
because his body was clay red and shaped
like an arrowhead.

The next summer, we caught tadpoles instead,
scooped them up with cold creek water in an old Folgers coffee tin.
But tadpoles aren’t as fun as frogs
when you’re ten.
After we stashed the tin of tadpoles in our wooden pallet playhouse,
we promptly forgot about them
til Thanksgiving
when we peeled off the plastic lid
only to find opaque orange water,
thick with abandon.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 18

Erect and head-high or crawling on our bellies.
Its blood drips over the carpet and piles of ash.
The heart pulses until it doesn’t.
Quiet, cold, fragile under the heat of breath.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Poem used

Day 19

Early morning:
crouched to a squat,
forearms balancing on knees,
laughing, smiling.
He, beside me, asked why
I was so happy.
“I’m just watching.”
“What are you watching?”
He doesn’t know.
He, someone I’d never see
again.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 20

Last week they plucked cells from my cervix
like petals from a flower: you have precancer, you have precancer not, you have…
The test results written in fluent gibberish
called my cervical cells abnormal.
I swear I feel cancer sprouting as we speak,
my cervix pocked with it.

Maybe this is the universe’s way of
giving me what I want: the hunger for life that comes
with the taste of death.

Next week they’ll shave off my abnormalities
with electrical currents–
can they shave off my anxieties
while they’re at it?
–study them under a microscope (you have cancer,
you have cancer not…)
while I clean up the mess
of my cervix falling out.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Day 21

Balancing on my toes,
knees splayed like a frog,
I listen to the voice that says:
look into the pond;
what do you see?
I see,
or I try to. I try to
see rainbowed koi, shimmering,
instead of my dry, pale skin,
lackluster &
vitamin D-deficient.
I try to see seaweed swaying
in underwater rhythm
instead of my hair, tangled,
sparse & limp.
I try
to catch a glint of sunlight
beaming off an oyster’s pearl
instead of my dead eyes,
grey as winter, cold as ice.
But my arms can’t carry
my weight, my toes can’t detach
from the ground.
The pond is only my reflection;
today Narcissus has won.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 22

If the sun rose in the west and set
in the east, what color would the sky bleed?
Would clouds glow silver?
Would sunlight paint the sky bronze,
turquoise, and lavender?

Who says a circle can’t have corners?
If you draw four equal-distanced loops in a circle,
can you not find a crevice in which to cower?

If pigs could fly, couldn’t all animals sprout wings?
And if all animals could fly, what of the birds,
bees, and other airborne beings?
Would they lose their wings like fallen angels,
devolve to land dwellers, vulnerable
to outstretched claws and gnashing teeth?

If the clock struck thirteen, would there be
such a thing as bad luck?
Or would we cross our hearts and hope not
to die
on Friday the 14th instead?

If stars could rearrange themselves,
what would they say?
Would other life forms pass notes to us
from light years away?
Would they fall from the sky and sprout star trees
from the dirt?
Would they put on nightly shows?
Would the sun revolve around Earth?

So many what ifs and truths to flip,
but I can’t fathom
how a mouse could eat an elephant.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 23

Engines rev as drum beats,
cymbals keeping time
and bass counting 4
3
2
1.
Some rockets blast off
in underwater motion,
some rockets are piano keys falling.
Fingers high on hydroponic weed
pluck slow spiral galaxies
that crawl and sprawl
through electric guitar strings.
Lyrics coat my skin in stardust,
Mayfield’s t’s are comets.
There’s life on Mars,
you’ll always love me.
I’m sa-sa-seein’ starz.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 24

I knew you but only
enough to think of you
when I’m writing poetry
or seeing through a lense,
brush in hand,
sea green pants,
bare feet kissing grass,
flowers and paint stains
dancing on my dress.

And thinking of you
was like the sun sinking into
my regrets.
I envied you
even in death.
But death won’t do
and wishing for death
would be
the worst way to honor you.

You are the morning sunrise,
a beam of light and drip of honey
in the darkest corners,
on the bitterest tongue.
You are a brush stroke,
a turquoise ring,
a June bug, a belly laugh
teaching me from the grave
to lie barefoot in the grass.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 25

Warning: Do not feed more
than two sweets per day
to avoid uncontrollable bouncing,
eye swirling, and incessant
nonsensical talking.

Warning: Will sing
spontaneously,
respond in giggles,
make up children’s songs,
and talk in riddles.

Warning: Do not leave alone
for more than 48 hours,
stick around more
than 24, or ignore a text
for over 60 minutes.

Warning: Will snap
if prodded, twisted, and pulled,
stretched in one direction,
then the next,
back and forth.

Warning: Do not place in a box
or under a label
or expect the same thoughts
or actions.
Water daily; allow growth.

Warning: Will shed tears
at violent language
or curl into a shell cave
when sad, creating,
or overwhelmed.

Warning: Do not stare in eyes
for too long, or ye shall be lost
for eternity at sea,
bewitched into love or lust
or both.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 26

Spring swings in on a gust of wind,
a momentary lapse back
into winter.
The chill prickles my skin,
hair follicles reaching
for sun,
teeth and bones
passing notes in Morse code.
Snow is melting and
shadows still catching up
to daylight savings time,
but the sun is in full bloom,
warm honey on my skin.
I pass an army of flowers—
small, white, and fragrant
little trumpets—as the birds
chirp melodies in rhythm
with my stride.
I sink my teeth into
my first fresh strawberry
since last summer—
its juice like nectar,
flesh sweet and cool
on my tongue.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 27

I dare to stride about the garden with my wrist outstretched,
its white scars gleaming in the sunlight.
My lungs take in fresh air, exhale old breath
that has rot in my chest like dead weight
for three years too long.

Perhaps it’s Spring on my tongue or the flick of silver
bouncing off my newly exposed skin
that brings the chickadee to land on my wrist,
like it was made of bark, and build a nest for new life
in the crook of my arm.

And I am rounding corners in the garden
like I’ve been here before or trust my instincts
without second thoughts. And everything is so foreign,
I must be in a dream, for when my eyes are open,
only blackbirds cross my path.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 28

The trees are dead. The birds are dying. They’ll spring back to life come May, but for now, they are dying, their chirps slowly muffled by the quiet drifts of snow that will keep us from knowing grass exists and seeds bloom flowers. Five months to go. I’ve been here one. If Phoenix sits on the edge of the sun, Minneapolis bathes in Pluto’s icy pools and arctic glaciers. I spend my days dreaming of your skin tanning and glistening under the Arizona sun. The way its beams beat down on you all year round. The way palm trees look like pineapples and smell like paradise. Some days, when the snow is knee high and the temperature drops ten degrees below zero, I close my eyes and remember what it was like to live inside an oven: a reminder of both what it feels like to be warm and how the heat hurt more.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 29

I know the bottom. I know it with every
tooth, bone, and organ.
The bottom is a pit, thick
with swarms of earthworms squirming
in damp dirt.

I do not fear it. Death does not scare me
into living. Death cradles and rocks me
to sleep like I am a newborn baby,
only knowing the encasement of a womb,
the muffle of vocal chords,
the distant chime of fork against plate.

This echo behind my rib cage,
this gurgle in my belly: these
are my dissatisfactions.
I am nothing but empty.
I lie with my hands draped over
my breasts like I am ready.
I would cry, but I’ve stopped that.
I feel nothing but empty.

But some days I feel sunsets
burn into my skin until I glisten,
peached, full-bodied. Periodically,
the moon reminds me
my humanhood, dragging me out from the inside
until I feel the stains of life
seep out of me,
thighs sticky with it.

In these thin tears between storm clouds
dispersed, I unfurl myself from the grip of this
dark thing inside me and watch it flap out
looking, with its teeth, for something to kill.

I look to the same woman who inched me
toward death for will.
I lean into her rhythmic chant,
body full of blood, irony clenched
in my sweaty fist, and listen
to the cry of my heart,
the pulse in my wrist:
I am, I am, I am.

– Kaitlin Meilert

Prompt

Day 30

It’s true what she said about
rain: it falls in tune
with my lachrymose heartache.

– Kaitlin Meilert