Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pick a Word, Any Word

For this week's Poetry Thursdayprompt, we were supposed to use the random prompt generator on their site to create a poem. So, for my poem, I decided to get a list of 10 words from the generator and write 10 couplets that included the words. I was surprised at what resulted, a poem about an earthquake that happened 13 years ago, when I had just moved to Minnesota and my dad still lived in Los Angeles. After the poem, I'll list my required words.

6.7 on the Richter Scale

My dad called me on my 17th birthday, two hours before
I awoke. He was already sifting through the remains

of his home after the earthquake. He told me
all about the sagging freeways in the Valley, the mirror

shards in the bathroom sink, the black thicket
of downed power lines dotting the street. He lived

near the fault line, and his bedroom became
an angry ocean. He tried to tell me this calmly, narrate

the disaster like a joke. I was used to that, his swift
barrage of words building towards the punch line.

Through the cross-country phone line, I listened
for his silence, the pauses filled with static, as he fumbled

towards the next detail. I tried to envision
the new version of our house, the shadow cracks creeping

along the foundation. Our ancient cocker spaniel
shivering and barking back talk at the suspect ground.

And of course, my father, blanched white, surveying
the wreckage with the phone clamped to his ear. As we talked,

he tripped on the fallen chandelier, stubbed his toe. When he cursed,
under his breath, I thought, it’s official – I can never go home.

My required words were: mirrors, barrage, shadow, back talk, fault, thicket, sift, static, stub, and blanch. Of course, I changed their tenses, but I used one in each couplet.


Eric said...

I was on the road back to college in the midwest that fateful day and for all my trying could not get a phone call through to find out how my family fared through the temblor. The longest day of driving I've ever had! Your word choice captured the images wonderfully! I particularly liked the spaniel talking back to the ground and how your Dad tried to spare you the severity by making light of the situation. Wonderful piece.

paris parfait said...

I like your poem, which does a great job in capturing the angst of an earthquake (I went through the 7.1 quake in San Fran in 1989 and quite a few lesser ones).

Colorful Prose said...

In a lot of the PT poems, you can tell which words were generated because they don't seem to fit and just pop out brazenly from the rest of the poem, and the narration hops around a lot. Yours was absolutely smooth and seemless, and so filled with realism. I really enjoyed the read.

pepektheassassin said...

Good job! I lived through several big California quakes, but never told the tale. You have done well!

gautami tripathy said...

Your couplets re-created the whole thing for us. Along with the thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, there are many reasons we can't go back, many an earthquake.

Crafty Green Poet said...

You have captured it well - both the literal earthquake and as Mike says the other sorts too. I like your line breaks!

Catherine said...

This reads wonderfully smoothly with the words incorporated seamlessly, so that I couldn't easily pick which they were until you told us at the end. The ending was perfect.

Verilion said...

Wow this is really impressive. I particularly liked the couplet about the new version of your house and the cocker spaniel. The words fit in beautifully.

tumblewords said...

Ah, I remember the earthquake. Your word use is terrific - spells out your father, you and the relationship in response to the event. I like the use of couplets here with the prompt words, too.

Fledgling Poet said...

This is so poignant...I got a crystal clear image of that moment your Dad called, the shock and trauma of knowing your home was gone, and that scared feeling of knowing that all has suddenly changed. Just beautifully written...

wendy said...

I missed it the first time...(also missed that particular prompt..)

How I sooooo Loved this....being a native Californian myself.

Barking Backtalk. sheer is the whole.

Anonymous said...

Tiel Aisha Ansari and I, Mike McCulley, have created a 'poetry exchange' blog at Totally Optional Prompts , and you are invited to participate.