Poetry Roundup – August 2020

I’m publishing (on average) a short piece per day on Twitter, including a mix of poetry and prose, so I’m posting a “highlights reel” here, and the rest can be found on my profile, @PeterRavlich.

If you enjoy ultra short form work, there are hundreds of other poets and writers creating moments of delight, tension, wonder and bravery, most consistently using the hashtag #vss365.

Prompt: Swoon (vss365)

You are so
beyond me
in every
single dimension—
I can’t even

Prompt: Flutter (Poetryin13)

That sweet
lub-dub was
so sufficient—
but feeling
this flutter
is bittersweet

Prompt: Integer (vss365)

In your influence
I feel
and yet constrained
only to your orbit
where I’m dying
to remain
Count my singular
and salve this pain

Prompt: Concern (painfulprompts)

There are only four chambers
inside this heart
but I can’t seem to find
my way out

Prompt: Triangle (vss365)

The first is a fragile instant—
A heart is surrendered and won
The second a cognitive frisson
A deft dalliance is begun
The third is the angle unchallenged
Who toys with the others in turn
He’ll posture and pout as misdeeds echo out
But never be ready to learn

Prompt: Commute (vss365)

Everything you are to me
an absolute anomaly
in isolation can’t exist
(the pun misplaced but accurate)—
This is a sum that can’t be split
the product is inviolate
no cognitive coherence how
you’ve come to populate my now

But I’m glad

Prompt: Complex (vss365)

You say you’re
so simple

maybe it’s the word
that’s insufficient

maybe it’s me

because simple

has never meant
so much

Prompt: Field (vss365)

A heart is not a book
but a library
Where the authors each submit
a single tome
Whose pages leave us shook
and sad, and teary
But where sometimes we still sit
to dream of home

Prompt: Vector (vss365)

Turn my key until it binds
and point me down a stumbled line
I’ll be your rusting soldier
til the end
And when that final spring unwinds
my clockwork heart, my whole design
will be no single fraction colder—
For I’ve had you as a friend

Prompt: Calculus (vss365)

You nudge me
and sometimes
off the edge—
how is one to
these rates
of change?

If I were in
any way a smart
predictor I would
It is not at all
but it’s strange.

Prompt: iff (vss365)

I just can’t see a case
that tests for true

When something ill-defined
and ephemeral is
what do you weigh?

I know it’s my fault
But not how
when I can’t
be false

Prompt: Vector (vss365)

I have value
I know
and volition – a vector
so why
does my verse
to zero
on you?

Prompt: Enhance (vss365)

If wishes
even once
You’d be unafraid
still perfect
but content

Poetry Roundup – July 2020

I’m publishing an average of around one short piece per day on Twitter, including a mix of poetry and prose, so I’m posting a “highlights reel” here, and the rest can be found on my profile, @PeterRavlich.

If you enjoy ultra short form work, there are hundreds of other poets and writers creating moments of delight, tension, wonder and bravery, most consistently using the hashtag #vss365.

Prompt: Ocean (#vss365)

Yours is the shore
and the shallows
yours are the deeps
and the docks
You are the ocean
whose bellicose
give beat
to this heart
as it clings
to the rocks

Prompt: Nectar (#vss365)

Your nectar is far
too sweet—
I can’t stop sipping
the heart is
blameless here
but it still hurts
to feel it slipping

#Hamilton #AngelicaSchuyler #TakeABreak

Prompt: Nostalgic (#vss365)

The volumes on
my mental shelves
are battered
Like every book
I’ve ever loved
too much
But those pages are
that really matter—
Every visit
with a delicate

Prompt: Estrange (#Poetryin13)

Is there
an inverse
or tacit
and this

Prompt: Charisma (#vss365)

I know it’s problematic
to conflate sincerity with reality—
to make a character emblematic
when the stage and the page
are more suited to static impressions
than actual accuracy…

But as for charisma
it’s clear there’s
no deficit here—
Miranda’s Hamilton
is revelatory
owning his story
and an absolute
revolution to see.

Prompt: Xenophobe (#vss365)

Losing fear
is liberation;
Holding it

But when that fear
is fabricated
facile, false and fanciful

An arbitrary othering
of any trait you
don’t digest

You’ll find my
is slipping—
please don’t
put it to
the test.

Prompt: Orphan (#vss365)

I sometimes wished
while the belt was
coming down
in the latest
punctuation of
my faults

That some other
for my
was at hand;
that could
escape from
these assaults

Prompt: Pachyderm (#vss365)

How ponderous
our parries
when that trunk
gets in the way—
yet how deftly
we deny
our own

Prompt: Liberty (#vss365)

The figure of
Liberty beckons
with a valiant
verdigris mien
While behind this
inviting impression
Is an irony
cast for a queen

Prompt: Demogorgon (#vss365)

Your petals
seem peculiar
and your botany—
While I hate
to hasten rumour
I can’t fathom
what you are
Open wider
let me see—
those look
remarkably like
just a second
maybe three
to get
my head in

Prompt: Angel (#vss365)

You used
to call me angel
but I thought
my wings
were gone—
that time
had marred
the feathers
that I’d fallen…

I was wrong

I was silly
and afraid
but those
do not reflect
on you
and if I soar
again it’s only
‘cos you were my
angel too

Poetry Roundup – Early 2020

Prompt: Rubiginous (#vss365)

Have you seen
my electrons?
I could swear
I left them here…
or there…
or in this vague

I used to be
when I had them
floating near
but now I’m
oxidised for
all to see

Prompt: Velleity (#vss365)

Did I tell you
of a boy—
let’s call him Henry—
who couldn’t quite
decouple from
his sheets?
“I’ll get up soon,”
he said,
a time
and that duvet
attached to him
for weeks

Prompt: Submontane (#vss365)

You humans conquer
higher peaks and claim
the climb is tough

While we who burrow
dig beneath—
but never deep enough

You strain and swear
and summit

While we
strain and swear…

if we hadn’t
started digging here
there wouldn’t be
a hill

Prompt: Periapt (#vss365)

Wear this in
my memory dear—
it’s fashioned from
the bone
that caught in
Uncle Reuben’s
when Satan called
him home

My darling
don’t be sorry
he was the spawn
of Hell—
but wear it
and remember
we’re both
destined there
as well.

Prompt: Ingurgitate (#vss365)

She scoffed a saucerful
of worms
some spiders, and a frog —
that pixie preys on anything
that lingers near her log —

So children, for the love of Pan
stop playing by the bog.

Prompt: Benthos (#vss365)

It’s far too cold
plunge me into
your diffuse depths

let me sink
still shivering
until I brush
that veiled bottom
clenched closed
lungs lurch
skin alone

I’ll stay
a second

and then




my way back
to the

Prompt: Ambrosia (#vss365)

“Well, what do you think?”

“It’s okay.”

“Okay? It’s the literal food of the Gods!”

“Call me a stickler, but I’d prefer the food of the chefs.”

Prompt: Sapid (#vss365)

I’ve carried the taste
since that bakery closed down
sweet nothings linger

In Shakespeare’s Footsteps

The Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand (SCGNZ) has been running a series of competitions, and I’m really pleased to have won second prize in their sonnet competition for my piece From The Dark Lady.

My winning sonnet and other entries follow. Two draw on Shakespeare’s characters, and the other two take four “quotable lines” from his work and shape sonnets around them.

This first piece was written from the perspective of one of the addressees of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, the titular Dark Lady.

From The Dark Lady

I cannot quite decide which fate is worse:
To have you make presumption of my sin,
Or bear your masochistic little verse,
Ostensibly to worm your way within.
Were I to lesser station given birth,
Perhaps I’d deign rejoinder to your “wit”
With puerile intimations of your worth:
“How short, how thin—how ever will it fit?”
But, rest assured, I’m flattered by your rhyme,
Propriety, you see, requires grace;
So should we meet at some unwitting time,
That isn’t raw contempt upon my face.
    Aye, Will, you might have plucked a willing rose,
Had less been on the page, and more inside your hose.

My next sonnet borrowed Lysander’s words from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” and Friar Lawrence’s “Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.” from Romeo and Juliet. This one was the most difficult to write, because I had a clear vision for the piece that was a little too ambitious and autobiographical, and ended up having to pare the concept down.

The Race

The course of true love never did run smooth
Since on Her toes thy clumsy footstep fell,
And trying this impression to improve
Then trod upon Her other foot as well.
Thy missteps were too numerous to count,
And ignorance in similar degree,
If offered love of any small amount
You’d magnify it exponentially;
Then reeling in despair—of thy own make—
Would jealousy comport you to cliché
And even thy convictions would forsake,
Until that love in tatters tore away.
    We seldom love well, till our youth is past:
Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.

The following piece is the first sonnet I wrote in this sequence, and it provides a right of reply from Shakespeare’s Young Man, the other addressee of his sonnets. Like the poem From The Dark Lady, it extends from Shakespeare’s own bawdy tone.

From The Young Man

These centuries have passed, but I remain
Ensorcelled by your hubris on the page,
And where you scribbled pseudonyms for shame,
I suffer each indignity of age.
You wrote of youth, committing me to ink,
Ideas, you calculated, would endure;
But did you ever hesitate and think
Your motivation might have been impure?
The scholars do not worship at my thighs—
My name, my face, my self remain unknown—
But rote recite your shittiest of sighs,
While I am just a guy you might have blown.
    Will I forgive who took away my name,
Imperfectly you loved me, but you loved me, all the same.

This final piece takes a new approach to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 2, starting with the same first line, “When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,” and sticking as obstinately as possible to that military metaphor and its implications. After much deliberation, I took “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad” from Antonio in The Merchant of Venice as a fitting, if not uplifting, conclusion to my final couplet.

Revise and Conquer

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow
They shan’t expect thy forehead to attack—
Descending in a weak, compliant bow,
Then striking up to claim thy beauty back!
Mere Time is a pretender to the throne,
Her armies flee in regimented beat
Before the dread advance of thee alone;
Upon the faintest fancy of thy feet.
This coward isn’t sanctioned in Her war
Yet takes immoral plunder as Her due:
The colour from thy tresses as we snore
And memories that we together grew…
    I have a plan… That is… How odd! I had…
In sooth, I know not why I am so sad.

Negative Place

It’s only an absence,
A void
isn’t that how they used to define it?

And there’s no crime
in passing through space
is there?

Unless they do it,
But that’s – different.

It’s common sense.
Good old-fashioned common sense.
We’re all white here.
Who? Don’t know who you’re talking about.

It doesn’t happen if it isn’t reported.
It’s illegal to report it.

She’s a liar.
So is he.
They’re all liars.

Contempt? Oh yes.

Think about it, but not too

They were asking for it.
I mean, what did they expect?
Coming here.

Can we call it a resort?
It’s certainly our last one.

All care, no responsibility? No, that’s
stretching things too far.
All responsibility, no care.
Accurate, but not helpful.

There aren’t two sides here,
not if we shut them up.

Do-gooders. Namby-
pamby liberals.
Archaic, trite; but it still works.

Who wants to do good?
We can’t,
not if we let anoth- a
of people in

think of the economy

No, it’s hard to get good help
is all
Those islands are real shithole- I mean
it’s out of our
jurisdiction, right? (Worked for Gitmo.)
Who’s to say what
constitutes a crime

Refuge? Good one.

Control the dialogue.
Can’t do that? Make it a monologue
a soliloquy – a silent one –
Say as little as possible
for as long as possible
until they all
give up
and go
– Oh.