Friday, April 26, 2024

Poetry Friday: Impossible Questions

Do tulips know how to kiss?

April's prompt was a fun one: write a poem inspired by "an impossible question."  It came to us via Laura Purdie Salas, who was inspired while listening to Georgia Heard talk about using this prompt with kids.  I'm not sure how Heard normally uses this exercise, but we kept it simple. During our ZOOM meet-up, we brainstormed impossible questions for five minutes, and then shared the pool of questions with each other.  Then we chose one (or two or ten) and were off and writing.  

Of course, there was some discussion of what an "impossible" question was. Maybe impossible only meant "hard to find out in a reasonable time frame" how many grains of sand in sandbox, or something "highly subjective" what is love?  In the end, I don't think it matters---the whole point was to get our brains spinning in new ways.

 For me, this prompt brought up memories of my dad telling me a riddle, which began like this: Why is a bicycle?  Of course, there is no why, but he had an answer ready:  Because a vest has no sleeves.  

YUP.  I didn't get it then, and don't get it now, but still....I LIKE it.  I like it in the way I like poems that I don't fully understand.  It's absurd, but then so is life, sometimes.  So for my poem this month, I celebrate impossible questions, and their impossible answers.  (Many thanks to my fellow poets whose pool of questions led me down this road, and to my dad for the riddle.)

I want answers...

How many dandelion wishes in a summer?
Do balloons cry when they burst?
How do you hold onto a smile? 

I would tell you—
if only I knew how many 
winks in “a while.”

Why is a banana not an apple?
Do tulips know how to kiss?
Who stole the sleeves from a vest? 

I would tell you—
if only I knew which subjects
fish schools teach best. 

How far do ants travel in a month?
Do trees remember your face?
Who first tried to carry a tune? 

I would tell you— 
if only I knew where
to find East of the moon.

Do whales see themselves in the sea like a mirror?
Where does the Leap Year go on off years?
How deep is the deepest hole you can dig? 

I would tell you—
if only I knew when something
little becomes big. 

Which days do birds paint the sky? 
How long does kindness last?
How far does an echo fall?  

I would tell you—
if only I knew anything—
anything at all. 

            -----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

My fellow poets impossible question poems can be found here:

Friday, March 29, 2024

Poetry Friday: Animal Pantoums

My flowerpots,

March's challenge was to write a pantoum featuring an animal.  Mine is a modern pantoum, which repeats lines in the right order but doesn't use rhyme like a traditional pantoum would.  Usually, I love playing with rhyme (even making up words) but I kind of liked attempting this without rhyme this month---it forced me to focus on images and verbs instead of word play.  

A pantoum is not complicated but it does have strict rules. If you're intimidated, or feeling stuck, you can do as some of us did, and use this lovely exercise. Just answer the questions about something "ordinary" in your life, and a pantoum practically falls into your lap.  Or at least a rough draft of one! 

Here's something ordinary that I mined for my pantoum:

Squirrels in the Flowerpots 

Spring blooms, gone,
scattered soil on the steps,
holes big as my fist
a hail of empty walnut shells

scattered. Soil on the steps
near thin-fingered roots, torn;
a hail of empty walnut shells—
something no longer buried

near thin-fingered roots. Torn,
my hands twist and clutch;
something is no longer buried
in this broken pot that

my hands twist and clutch. 
Time and earth were found
in this broken pot—that’s
nothing, really—

time unearthed; found
holes big as my fist;
nothing, really—
spring blooms, gone.

              ------Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

My poetry sister's pantoums can be found here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by our own Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Poetry Friday: Love Letters to February

The challenge this month was to write a poem in the form of a love letter, taking a cue from Valentine's Day, I suppose.  I don't have anything against V-Day, but somehow, February brings out a stubborn streak in me.  In 2010, and again in 2020, I wrote a semi-tirade to this month, chastening it for its behavior.  And (maybe because it's a leap year again) I'm returning to my old friend this year, too. 

Here's a record of our correspondence: 


Oh, February, oh February 

You make my heart sing, you do,
were it not for blinding blizzards…and the swine-iest of flu.

Oh, February, far too short the days
to count the shades of grayest grays

you send me, year after weary year.
If I were you, I'd watch my back, dear;

such nuanced love cannot last
before I exchange you for something less…overcast.

Oh, February, love is patient, love is kind;
love doesn't leave you disinclined

to climb from underneath the warmest covers
to join the bitterest, iciest, and brutalist of lovers

on the barren street, no less! to watch how much snow
you can blow and blow and blow---some beau

you are. But how can I call it quits
when you bite my cheeks and grab my wrists

kissing color into my frozen face---
Oh, February, let's March on apace!

               ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


Oh, February, oh February 

You make my heart sing, you do…
Were it not for days of sixty degrees, and nights of minus two!

Tulips bloom, then crack to ice before they can be kissed;
Lovers sweat, then freeze to death if they dare outdoor trysts.

And what’s with the extra day you want to stuff
Into a month that already has it rough,

What with viruses ravaging the land,
And Astros not apologizing for whacking on a can?

February, I know claimed I was no quitter,
But that was when I thought you merely icy, brutal, bitter—

Now you unleash forest fires, and dump tornados in my lap; 
I wouldn’t swipe right on you, not on any dating app!

So cut it out, February, you heartless fool.
Be true. Be you. Go back to being cool.

-----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

And here is my letter to February for 2024:

Oh, February, oh February,

It’s been four years since my last note,
and fourteen since I first wrote—

and since your time is almost through
I really shouldn’t be emailing you—

but last night I dreamt a frost with bracing
fingers crept into my bed, lacing  

the worn stairs of my cheeks with steely filigree
and veiling my silvering hair with blustery

crackling snow, until I shone slick
as glacier ice; as bright as magic—

cold breaking stone,
once again that girl, half-grown

you teased with bitter wind and bite—
oh, February, waking in slanted winter light,

I know better than to warm my heart
to you, even now years apart;

I’ll delete this letter, even if I do—
occasionally— think very coldly of you.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

My poetry sisters love letter poems are here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tabitha at The Opposite of Indifference.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Poetry Friday: Writing to the Art of Roberto Benavidez

It was an easy choice to kick off 2024 with an ekphrastic challenge. Writing about or in conversation with a piece of art automatically gives a poet several places to begin:

What do you first notice? What lingers with you after you look away? Is there more to the story, things beneath the surface that you're curious about? What questions would you ask the art or the artist if you could?  

All these ideas (and more) were on my mind as I engaged with the work of Roberto Benavidez, who describes himself as "sculptor specializing in the piƱata form." Benavidez came to my attention through my brother, John, who sent me a link to an episode of Craft in America (streaming on PBS) which featured Benavdez's amazing pinatas.  I then quickly lost myself in his creations, which play with themes of "race, sexuality, art, sin, humor, ephemerality and beauty."  If you can't find something to write about in that list, look again!

But what most drew my eyes were Benavidez's paper sculptures that were inspired by another piece of art, Hieronymus Bosch's famous The Garden of Earthly Delights (also concerned with above said list...heavy on the SIN part.) It was from that body of work that I found my muse, choosing to engage not so much with sin, but with the art's humor, and the ephemerality of any physical form, be it a lifetime in a rat's twitching body or one quiet moment in a yoga pose. 

Please do go look around at Benavidez's work. And if you feel inspired, pick one to write to. Here's mine: (and apologies to this beast if he's not a rat...there's no tail, but he just felt like a rat to me.) 

Artwork by Roberto Benavidez
from his collection "Beasts in the Garden
of Earthly Delights.



His torso is plump as an avocado,

his bandy forelegs balancing

only ripe mischief and bravado

He’s cleared his mind of the fury

of the glinting trap, the gasping terror 

of a tail wrenched off in a blurry-hurry

Weightless, he’s free to grandstand, 

to steady his lurching heartbeat

to a joyful march inside the bandstand

of his puffed paper chest—oh so zen,

this posing rat, only his nose 

twitch-twitching now and then.


                -----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

Each of my fellow poets chose an artwork to write to, so go and be inspired by more of Benavidez's work, and their poems:

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Susan at Chicken Spaghetti