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Metaphor Poems (after Bei Dao)

Poems collected from participants in Dave Johnson’s 10*10*10*2 Workshops!

Episode 12: Bei Dao & Metaphor

April Eve
Seeds are the thoughts in a lemon
on the tree of tomorrow’s leaves.
All winds eat ideas
like snowfall in late winter,
covering all the avenues
of letters in books I am yet
to breed.

—Dave Johnson

Autumn Dreams

Wishes are thorns on butterfly wings
On route to Mexico
Like autumnal tornados and whorling dreams
Past dogs bark and mimosa blossoms
Arriving too late to come true.

—Elisa Delaroche

“Thank you, Dave, for coming back to inspire us once again.”

Spring Heart

Dog paws are the promise of the next
Padding past the now
Scratching ahead to the new
corner, crevice, post, possibility
Like small engines of hope
whispering so faintly
I can barely hear the new dawn rising

—Shellie Winkler

This April

Leaves are the tears of a tree.
See how they burst forth
with laughter and sorrow.

How I wish I could hold you.

Like the old woman who steals
bottles from the recycling
I leave out every week.

 Wish I could capture you
in a tower,
make you my Rapunzel.

But my mind is not a cage
and you are not a bird.
Birds make you their home

your song is their singing
and my hope
lies in your shade.

Mike Cunningham
“Thank you for continuing the ten minute poem classes. I find it really inspiring.”

Had missed a few days…so am catching up with my 10-10-10…
thanks for coming back!

False Promises

Seats are the prisons of my legs

Pressing and locking them up
Until they hobble — once they are able —
In pain.

They promise an island vacation
And deliver a week of hell –
Sore butt, broken back, bummed spirit.

Their civilized torture replaces
A common crouch or nimble walk
Like a polluted sky replaces the sun.

– Nayana Hein

memories are the stars in orbit

within a cluster of dreams
viewed through the lens of life
feelings burst and fade in their light

like a satellite train launched to communicate
creating clarity or clutter
in the mind’s sky

—Maureen Bailey

Thank you for these wonderful poetry lessons”

Fear is a mercy for humanity

It startles like a newborn with
her first glimpse of our world.

Faster than a wild hare bounds
across a field, it moves us to reflection.

And we are left with fresh perceptions,
seed dreams to sow for our future.

—Carolyn Chilton Casas

Blood in the Pen

Ink is the blood in the pen
That travels down my page
I feel the words of sorrow
A drop of blood on paper
Written in pain for naught
The pen is cast aside
The paper lives to tell
The tale.

—Barbara G. Harris


the mama cow is a bulb late to open

in the lean pasture of her home
a cowering sky     a fat moon
rolls on and away
over scrub oak and lime

like lilac in the hedges she must birth
the flower bulging at her borders
in the panting crimson womb

— Kayelemm

A Lifetime

Photographs are the yard sticks of our lives.
Click, snap, flash….all mechanisms to create a memory, record a milestone, document a
beginning, lament a descent ,measure our growth.
Like post it’s on the fridge or icons on the dash they remind us to smile, sigh, cry and laugh. But
when we are gone, who will treasure them? Where will they go? Who will remember?

—Ellen Goldstein

socks are bombs tucked
into drawers perfect for cat
naps, resting places all shapes
and sizes among sunflower
vases and bowls filled to the
brim with champagne mango.

all the objects rumble in the
house together. each wall is
a cutting board. each appliance
a foreign delegate.

we grab for wine bottles by
the stem like baseball bats and
swim in maroon basement
grottos when glass shards firework
off sending vessels.

the hair in the drain is a
kracken waiting to rise and
crush the running taps
weight like how waterfalls
against gravity glacier into
unlined sky instead.

—Heather Eileen Mark

“Thank you for this online workshop that helps bring me peace in troubling times.”

Mourning Song

Lies are the bricks of a building doomed to crumble.

A platform made by a rogue cannot hold the
dreams of tomorrow which sicken each
day like a raging plague.

The road to normal is littered
by unfilled vows and empty boasts,
spouted by maniacal conceit.

While numbers grow in unseen
bounds, a world trembles and
shrinks to a frightened core.

—Gerald Harris

Stones Float

Stones of faces long gone by
Compressed by life
to a pebble of what still resembles.

These many rivers shall I cross
like the mayor of towns past
to the ones I am drawn,
I reach out my fingers.

In my hand they speak
a language once forgotten
Remember me to your now
for I am worthy.

—Noreen Sanders


Hoofbeats seem a promise

though faint if not mistaken, silhouette without its edges
waxed paper crumpling between the trees
entire marching bands of calling frogs.

A tread stealthy enough to stop all singing
a long rope down a cliff might be a song
pinto buckskin roan disappear instead,

as if passed into another by-way
maps unread like pledges insincere
arteries less organized than rhythm.

—Devin Dougherty

Counting Blessings

Words place a duvet on my bed.
Sheep gave up their coats for me.
Traveling backroads, bewildered
Sleep gave up dreams to under-
Stand how warm the world can be.

—Myra Shapiro

Quarantine Afternoon

Shapes are the whisper of a puzzle
sliding doors on the tracks of the equation
calculus of a psychic
like the figures on a tarot card
chewed by the dog
fading to grey.

—Gina Turner

Lacking The Sense of Taste 

Feelings are textures on my tongue
when I remember to taste
or my brain permits me to —
caramel  reminds me of
climbing a hill,
spaghetti strands tease, evade
demand “more, more.”
I love my spaghetti cold, bare,
a plateful will hardly do.

Am I destined to feel wind
in my collar when others don’t
to deny meaning when it is
clear as a cloudless night.
When will I feel life as more than
faint urgings,
nothing more?

—Ellen Pober Rittberg

Prison is a train with no driver,
with passengers in locked wagons
bound for the cliff’s edge.
Finally given the skills and licence,
they could still steer their lives
away from the abyss.

—Rachel Clarke (Berlin, Germany)

“Thank you first of all for creating this great forum for poets from
around the world to join in this time of crisis.”

Cooking at Home In April, 2020

Flour is the backbone of the bread,
strings of gluten muscle,
and yeast the droplet-tainted air

stretching lungs like fissured rubber bands.
Salt dries the heart
as ions speed through underpasses

and flavor comes with time.
Time that runs like chunky soup out of a can:
First a few drips, then
all the beans in one splat.

—E.B. Fouts-Palmer

“Thanks so much for sharing these great videos — I just discovered them and plan to continue, and hopefully go back and catch up on the first 10 I missed!”

Ripe Kiwi

Peelings are the comforting hug of a kiwi

In the midnight of the kiwi’s fuzzy dreams
come true off splitting limbs frozen
space where wild and free homeless

men and women awaken
like newborn child out of mother’s secretive world
from clear tasteless fluid to ounce of warm sweet milk

exploring new day situation
I sing because I’m happy
freed from yesterday

when the telephone rang sea of fears
machine seized messages
play, skip, delete, petition.

—Kiswana Dee

This House
Doors define waking dreams
night twists the painted shutters shut
closing out stars and ancient songs
till the sun strides up
over fractured dew
prisms on fire.

Mid-day curling out heat
slices open a green dream life
petals, tears, slender cilia of regret
swirl under windows, float
into slate-stacked corners
of dry forgetfulness.

—Christine Craig


Petals are the prayer of day lilies
on the high terrace of a year

green fists clenched
against nightlong prodding

unfold their praise and lament
as birdsong trumpets daybreak

—Joan Blessing

Linden in Fall

Shadows are the widows of leaves
Leaves fainting sorrows of love
Dizzy pulses grasp the wind
Begging the sun
To stop

—Christine Heiss

Where We

Walk up the road
that has no shoulder
for walking, fortunately
no cars either the pandemic
has encouraged all of us to leave
keys in the drawer, no place
to spend so we walk
from home to discover what
we hadn’t noticed before
especially all of the graveyards
in this old city, including
this one, a wide avenue
of tipped and tilted stones
in the pines and a wild turkey
fanning his tale like an announcement
he doesn’t care how we got here
or where we are going
but he has the bluest wattle in town.

—Will Nixon

Ask questions? What for?

Hell isn’t something you should have woken up with.

Up in the hills awaits what the day expects from you. You parsing out the pleasantries of which
you have so few.

Headaches don’t come from deep within anymore. Not for a long time, no. It’s what they say to
you when you give them all you have, when the voice of the deep wakes and spits at you.

You are a fool, it says. The glass is too clear, it shows passersby all your categories, the ones
who are worthless, the ones you never stop wanting.

Down in the valley, the cities expect what they always expect. And you shaking the sleep from
last night, it won’t stop their expectations.

It’s just killing time between the time you know what you can’t give and the time they figure you
out. They lift these boxes of yours, each on its own dais, and they chirp and giggle and whisper.

They float out into the cities, the hills and leave you with hell pounding throbbing pulsing its
voice so solemn. You are a fool—you don’t need the voice to tell you this.

—Garth Ferrante

“I hope you like the poems I made, and thank you so much for an amazing way to spend my days!”

Morning mail

Love is the messenger on the corner

I missed this morning
my legs too short to leap
like crickets in the summer grass
singing their sorrowful tunes
looking for their harmony
in the maddening dark
of an empty garden

—India Carranza

Be patient –

wait a little longer.

You are not alone.

Streets crave the bustle of traffic

while theatres miss the applause.

Swings are longing for children

and parks need people to relax.

The world is waiting with you.

But it won’t be long, so

why not plant some seeds?

Gardens will grow again and

harvest will come.

Just wait –

you’ll see.

—Maureen Bailey

Mourning Canto
after Bei Dao

“Nel bosco oscuro della memoria”
my grandfather sang of exile
his boyhood home a mist
La Smorfia, The Book of Dreams his ticket
ferrying him to a new world where
guttural sounds replaced soft vowels.
What is lost in what is newly found?

In the evening, dressed in his tailor’s vestments,
grey sweater, even in summer
I watched him sew a button on my coat
as he spoke a music I was yet to learn.

—Lillian Rossi Maida

TV is the thief of imagery.
The old dog curled up on the couch
has reappeared on the couch
in the living room of a sitcom

I am watching. I watch a woman
who could be my wife pausing over
the dishes in the sink glance out the window
at the cherry tree in blossom

on Channel 13. The channel’s mighty current
is sweeping what could be my chairs and tables,
beds and bureaus, doors and floors, walls
and refrigerators, away, and is reassembling them,

brand new, outside of which young children,
vaguely resembling my own twenty years ago
play blithely under a sky which is always,
episode after episode, sunny. Even the distinct

sound of someone rummaging through
the recycling for bottles in front of my by now
empty lot has become a sound effect
on a rerun at which I, up late, am staring,

and by which I, a little confused, am aroused
from that old plump arm chair, which is also gone,
since someone must, in the absence of
the barking dog, go see what’s going on,

and it might as well be me, but there’s no one
there, of course, no homeless man hunched
over and carefully attending to the bagged
garbage heaped by the curb. All the homeless,

the talking heads reassure me, have moved on,
have been ferried in their Amazon Prime
shopping carts to the edge of a vast
production lot somewhere very remote,

somewhere very West, somewhere in the Clouds,
where they wait to be turned into bytes
which we, the new homeless, will obediently eat
like a bowl of chips in front of a tube.
—Joe Elliot