An awful tempest

AN AWFUL tempest mashed the air,
The clouds were gaunt and few;
A black, as of a spectre’s cloak,
Hid heaven and earth from view.

The creatures chuckled on the roofs 5
And whistled in the air,
And shook their fists and gnashed their teeth,
And swung their frenzied hair.

The morning lit, the birds arose;
The monster’s faded eyes 10
Turned slowly to his native coast,
And peace was Paradise!

~Emily Dickinson

Your prompt: taking a cue from the Myth, describe a natural phenomenon in monstrous terms. Happy writing!

Is Heaven a physician?

IS Heaven a physician?
They say that He can heal;
But medicine posthumous
Is unavailable.

Is Heaven an exchequer?
They speak of what we owe;
But that negotiation
I ’m not a party to.

~Emily Dickinson

For today’s poem, a prompt: compare a place or state of being to a person, as Dickinson does in this poem with Heaven and a physician/an exchequer. It’s an odd comparison, but it works. What place or state of being can you compare to a human being in a way that unpacks some of its significance?

Words of encouragement

Read, sweet, how others strove,
Till we are stouter;
What they renounced,
Till we are less afraid;
How many times they bore
The faithful witness,
Till we are helped,
As if a kingdom cared!

Read then of faith
That shone above the fagot;
Clear strains of hymn
The river could not drown;
Brave names of men
And celestial women,
Passed out of record
Into renown!

~Emily Dickinson

There is something rather un-Emily like about this poem. I don’t know if it’s that she usually isn’t trying to buck anybody up, or if it’s the more straightforward voice, or the address at the beginning, which sounds somehow more sonnet-y than usual.

Your prompt is to write some words of encouragement, and put them somewhere to be found and read.

The Juggler of Day

BLAZING in gold and quenching in purple,
Leaping like leopards to the sky,
Then at the feet of the old horizon
Laying her spotted face, to die;

Stooping as low as the otter’s window,
Touching the roof and tinting the barn,
Kissing her bonnet to the meadow,–
And the juggler of day is gone!

Emily Dickinson

Prompt: look at the many ways Dickinson describes the sun. It’s a leopard and an otter; it’s actively doing lots of things: blazing, quenching, stooping, tinting, etc. What other animals can you use to describe the sun? What other things does it do?

Prompt: Sunset

Where ships of purple gently toss
On seas of daffodil,
Fantastic sailors mingle,
And then–the wharf is still.

Emily Dickinson

This one is short and sweet, and above all else, I can see it. We’re watching a sunset, and the sun is just a slit of yellow over the horizon; purple is descending. In the last fading sunlight, long shapes of color thin out and change hues and, at last, disappear.

For today’s prompt, consider answering the following question in your own way, in your own poem: how else is a sunset like a body of water? What kind of feelings do the two evoke?

Prompt: From the Chrysalis

MY cocoon tightens, colors tease,
I’m feeling for the air;
A dim capacity for wings
Degrades the dress I wear.

A power of a butterfly must be
The aptitude to fly;
Meadows of majesty concedes
And easy sweeps of sky.

So I must baffle at the hint
And cipher at the sign,
And make such blunder, if at last
I take the clew divine.

Emily Dickinson

Today’s poem is written from the perspective of a butterfly that is still unhatched inside its chrysalis. What kind of other living things could you personify as they are aware of the world around them, but not part of it yet? Baby robins inside eggs? Roses unfurled from their buds?

Prompt: Loyalty

SPLIT the lark and you’ll find the music,
Bulb after bulb, in silver rolled,
Scantily dealt to the summer morning,
Saved for your ears when lutes be old.

Loose the flood, you shall find it patent,
Gush after gush, reserved for you;
Scarlet experiment! sceptic Thomas,
Now, do you doubt that your bird was true?

Emily Dickinson

Continuing in the fashion of is-this-a-love-poem poems: is this a love poem? It seems more like an I-told-you-so poem. The speaker is telling an unnamed person that music can be found inside a lark, if you split it open. The music is described beautifully–“bulb after bulb, in silver rolled”–and it persists in memory even after the lark is gone. Consider, too, what happens if we unleash a flood: it does what floods do! It floods!

The speaker then closes with an address, referring to the unnamed as a “sceptic Thomas”–slightly off from the usual “doubting Thomas” that I’m used to hearing, but the meaning is the same. Thomas, who refused to believe that the risen Jesus was, in fact, the risen Jesus, until he could feel the wounds from the cross, inspires the narrator’s own doubter: where does the lark’s music really come from? What happens if I open this dam and let the water out?

The speaker in this poem is, I believe, the lark, but that’s a discussion for another day. What I find far more interesting is the idea of questioning how a thing works, and then destroying it to find its source: and, of course, losing the thing in the process.

For today’s prompt, consider some natural phenomenon that seems magical, and which you might be able to slice through to suss out its mysteries. What happens then? What do you learn, or keep, or not?