"The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish." ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Finish Line

The challenge of writing a poem a day,
searching for structures, topics, and rhymes,
is nothing compared to the challenge (that may
be familiar to others whose hair's going gray)
of remembering anything thirty times.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(I came close to forgetting a few times, but happily managed to write a poem every day this month. They're not all great, but I'm happy with a few of them, and I had fun practicing.)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Haphazard Poems

Today's prompt at Poetic Asides is "Write a haphazard poem. The poem itself could be haphazardly put together, I suppose. But it could also be about a haphazard situation. Or whatever haphazard thing you can bend the poem into."

Since I had no other ideas, I decided to use random words. I got words from Random Word Generator in sets of 6, and made a rule that the poem must have 6 lines and must include all 6 words from one randomly generated set. It turned out to be quite a fun writing exercise that I will probably use again. Here are my three attempts for today.

Haphazard 1: dial fallout dusk fermentation host colony

At dusk the fallout was bad enough
to reach an eight on the dial.
The human host was beginning to panic but
the fermentation was still not complete
so the colony in the shoulder sent toward the brain
soothing messages of delay: All is well.

Haphazard 2: details defector moonbeam behavior uptown hollow

On an uptown street he paused for breath.
A moonbeam lit the pavement and suddenly
his behavior seemed to him inexplicable,
his reasoning hollow, the details drowned
by the knowledge of what he’d become.
Informer. Defector. Betrayer. Enemy.

Haphazard 3: clock group ambivalent fashionable aboveground belongings

The fashionable ones live aboveground,
their belongings around them like pets,
their beliefs ambivalent, their lives tied
to the progress of a clock. I did not choose
not to be part of that group, but even so
if I had a choice I would stay below.

~ Tamary Shoemaker

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Important Details

I wonder how we can know other people at all.
For example, I would not be the same me
without the sound of echoes under the street
crossing to school, or the horse chestnut tree
that lost my tooth, or the gooey sweet
cookies at Grandma’s recitals. You have too
a million million moments that are you
and who’s to say any one of them is small?

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a poem titled "Important ____.")

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


I dreamed I held my brain in my hands,
in two parts, heavy, slippery, awkward.
I had to ask a passing stranger for help.
As we carefully fit the halves together,
I wondered how to get it back in my head.
Would it hurt to take off the top of my skull?
Could I do it myself with a mirror to help?
Then I remembered this had happened before
and I had managed fine. But I wondered,
How was I thinking without my brain?
How flexible and clever the mind must be
to function this well with my brain in my hands.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a "take off" poem. I really dreamed this last night. I'm not sure what that says about me.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Turn Around Again

So much declared without knowing
—Turn away, turn around again.
So many petty thoughts showing
—Turn away, turn around again.
So many lofty plans failing
—Turn away, turn around again.
So much lost time unavailing
—Turn away, turn around again.
So now for inward appraising
—Turn away, turn around again.
So to a welcome rephrasing
—Turn away, turn around again.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at NaPoWriMo to write a call-and-response poem.)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Physical Therapy

My shoulder thinks I'm trying to kill it
with exercises like disco moves
that reach where it doesn't want to go.
The bright side is, when it improves,
I'll be ready to go on that dancing show.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at Poetic Asides to write an exercise poem.)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Lost and Found

Once again I realized I'd drifted off the path;
Once again I needed help but felt ashamed to ask.
Once again I put my pride aside and turned to You;
Once again You set me right and whispered what to do.
Once again I hope I won't forget the path You've shown,
But when I do, I trust Your patient love will guide me home.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a poem about something lost and regained.)

Saturday, April 23, 2016


It's a bright yellow flower that shares
a cheer made to lighten our cares,
but the neighbors will say
they don't like the way
the cheer spreads from our yard into theirs.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(Limericks are made for last-minute poem writing.)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Star Field

A blanket on the grass, the two of us
gazing into midnight.
You watched for meteors, satellites,
anything that moved.
I watched for them too. But all too soon
you’d seen enough and we headed back,
you folding the blanket and I the unused map
of the steady constellations.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a poem with the title "Star ____.")

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Pygmalion's Sweeper

I wonder about Pygmalion's wife.
Not that I should even care,
I just sweep his shop for an honest price,
ivory dust in my clothes and hair.
But first he sighs for almost a year
over this beautiful statue he made,
and then a look-alike bride appears
and the statue is gone, so, quite a trade.
He says they're happy. She says little,
but every day she follows him in
and watches him work with gauge and chisel
and touches her face like she’s feeling her skin.
And a fine white dust drifts down like snow

And I sweep it up for her after they go.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at NaPoWriMo to write a poem in the voice of a minor character from a fairy tale or myth.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016



~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at NaPoWriMo to write a "kenning" poem, a kind of Norse-inspired riddle.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Some days my hair wants to flip to the side
Or part in a novel place,
And my kids will say, “Cool hair, Mom,”
With half a smirk on their face.
Perhaps they don’t mean to compliment me.
Perhaps they are not sincere.
Perhaps they don’t know it’s a proven fact
Moms are cooler than they appear.

~Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a cool poem.)

Monday, April 18, 2016


The sound of home then was music.
Old records on the turntable,
jarring notes from instrument practicers,
the piano played by whoever passed.
The taste of home was potato salad
made from Mom's special recipe.
The sight of home was books, books, everywhere.
Home now is filled with music.
Home now is filled with books.
Home now is made from recipes,
some inherited and some our own:
potato salad, reading, music, love.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at NaPoWriMo to write a "sound of home" poem.)

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Person by person the chapel fills
with greetings and handshakes, the noise
of getting settled, but then
a hush spreads through the room
and music appears
that was always
there but we
did not

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(An attempt at a nonet.)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

College Burger Shop

I don’t remember the name of the place
but twenty-five years ago they had the best fries,
seasoned, thick, and just-right greasy.
A Friday night back then: crowds swirling
up to the counter and past the tables,
laughing, squeezing in four to a bench,
the noise astounding, the smell encompassing.
There I am, at a table for two,
except someone asked to borrow the other chair
so now it’s me and my book and my fries.
And I’m okay with that. Or rather, in this memory
I’m okay with that; but as my mind turns back
I wonder, a little, how okay I was then.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a poem about a food establishment.)

Friday, April 15, 2016


Some things are made to be in pairs. Cleaning out a basement,
I found flattened under a box of books one ancient shoe,
the leather cracked, the laces gone. Without thinking
I looked around for the other one before I caught myself.
Silly brain, trying to match up useless junk,
trying to make sense of uneasy aloneness.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at NaPoWriMo to write a poem with the idea of doubles.)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

An empty mind can offer little aid

An empty mind can offer little aid
To craft a poem close to midnight’s stroke.
The blinking cursor on the screen displayed
Derides me typing words I then revoke.
A frantic grasp for some elusive thought
Yields nothing worth expressing in this verse,
A stream of consciousness with nothing caught,
A vague ambition I cannot coerce.
But now a starting line appears and stays;
The rhyme and meter motivate the rest;
Though not profound or likely to amaze,
It seems that something real has coalesced.
This finished work thus illustrates a crime:
Attempted sonneting while pressed for time.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(I was tempted to call this poem "Blank Verse," referring to a mind going blank, but as a former English major, I just couldn't bring myself to label it inaccurately.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fortune Cookie Fortunes That Might Have Been Helpful

You will meet a tall, dark stranger and inflict injuries unless you watch where you’re biking.
Your hard work will pay off soon, except for that project the client isn’t going to pay you for.
Consider turning off switches before removing broken light bulbs.
Try something new, but not that hairstyle you’ve been thinking about.
You are talented in many ways, but it still may take a while to find a job.
One of your lifelong dreams will come true, and you’re not going to like it once you get it.
Try something new, but say no to the calamari. Seriously, you’ll regret it.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at NaPoWriMo to write a fortune cookie poem.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Caught Up

After much effort I’m glad to announce
The dishes are washed, the laundry’s done,
The house is tidied, the floor is swept,
And the budget is all caught up for once.

So here are the updated family rules.
No using dishes. Eat out of your hands;
Do it outside so the floor will stay clean.
One change of clothes will be issued per week.
And don’t spend money ever again.

I might have a chance to stay caught up then.

~Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a serious or silly poem. When I say things like this to my family, they laugh, but I kind of mean it.)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Book spine poems

A NaPoWriMo prompt suggested this fun idea. Here are the ones I came up with.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


On Sundays we go to church and listen to the service.

Not just the preaching and teaching,
but what we’re asked to do for others—
a meal, a ride, childcare, prayers.

Keep listening and we hear what’s been done—
a yard cleaned up, canned food gathered.

But listen carefully for quiet words in passing
and we overhear the constant living under-rush of service,
not assigned or organized, just given—
a tire changed, a cup of flour lent,
a day brightened, a grief shared.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at Poetic Asides to use an emotion as a title.)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hiding Out

Caution and curiosity—
The need to hide, the need to see.
Gerbil instincts compromise—
Amid the shavings, lively eyes!

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a hide out poem. The prompt instantly brought to mind how our gerbils will hide in their nests of wood shavings, yet can't resist poking their heads out to see what's going on.)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Time and All

My fantasy is a room
Where I could take all my work
And step aside out of time

And do one thing at a time
And finish it all and have room
For the play that should come after work.

The thing is, it wouldn’t work.
Without the pressure of time
I’d just play in the timeless room.

There’s room. I’ll have to work on time.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at NaPoWriMo to write a tritina.)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Really Spring

Spring came to our yard a while ago,
Proposed by daffodils, seconded by hyacinths,
But today I opened the door to sudden tulips,
Boisterous, red, and callously cheerful,
Saying, “Spring is here. Deal with it.”

~Tamary Shoemaker
(No prompt today, just those tulips!)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Cooking and Conversation Do Not Mix

"Tuesday's still good for lunch with you"
Measure the flour, 1 cup, 2
"But now that the morning shift is free"
1 tablespoon sugar, 2, then 3
"I go in at 7 and open the store"
Uh . . . did I count 3? No . . . 3, and 4
"With 3 cashiers who start at 8"
Baking powder, 1 teaspoon . . . wait . . .
"And 2 of them get off at 1"
2, or 3? I might be done
"But 3 days a week, 1 starts at 9"
Salt, butter, milk, cross fingers, combine
"With a break at 2, then works till 6"
I hope I get biscuits instead of bricks
"So I think I can meet you at half past 10."
And I think I just ruined dinner again.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at NaPoWriMo to write a poem about food. I'm not completely happy with it, but I liked trying to convey the feeling of losing count while cooking.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Time is relative, sometimes fast
And sometimes incredibly slow—
When you're watching someone else's child
And the child is unhappy or sassy or wild
And there's three more hours to go.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a distance poem.)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Three Chapters Left

Three chapters left—
“Children, can you wait?
I’m finishing a book, so our dinner will be late.”

Three pages left—
“Children, cut it out!
It’s really hard to concentrate with all the screams and shouts.”

Three lines left—
Fire, earthquake, bleeding,
The toilet’s clogged, the house fell down—“I’m coming!”—No, I’m reading.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a poem with the title "Three ____." It was already late when I started brainstorming titles, which you might guess by looking at the ones that didn't get chosen:)

Three fudgsicles and four people
Three thumbs up
Three eyes watching you
Three seconds to live
Three piece puzzle
Three earwigs on my leg
Three baskets of laundry and a sink full o’ dishes, that’s why I called you tonight
Three eggs short of a dozen (but I love you anyway)
Three clowns in a dark alley
Three pigeons in the yard, or are they in my head?
Three superheroes is a crowd
Three thousand page novel and it’s due by Thursday
Three remotes lost in the couch
Three is a really bad bowling score
Three doesn’t look like a word anymore

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Notes from Notes

Mirror or window?
Kick off my shoes.
Heavenly parentage.
Seek so to do.

Always remember.
Keys are not lost.
Do I believe it?
Learn, listen, walk.

I was a stranger.
God rebuilds lives.
Stay close to the Givers.
Choose Jesus Christ.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(Yesterday and today I took notes on the semiannual LDS general conference. This poem uses phrases from those notes from 12 of the talks.)

Saturday, April 2, 2016


They say: “Leave me alone.”
They say: “You don’t care.”
They say: “Whatever.” With the tone of voice and the eye roll. “What-EVer.”

But I can’t leave them alone (not for long)
and I do care (so much, so so much)
and moms are bound to fight Whatever (at least for things that count).

So this time I get it right.
I don’t say anything.
I just think about when I said such things to my parents
and how someday my grandkids will say such things to theirs
but really we know:

we all care enough
not to leave each other alone
to face Whatever.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at Poetic Asides to write a "he said or she said" poem. And just for the record, my teenagers are definitely not like this all the time!)

Friday, April 1, 2016

Spring 2016

Scraping windshield ice
at 7,
wiping sweat at 3.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at NaPoWriMo.net. to write a lune or "American Haiku.")

Why I'm Wearing a Sweater in the Summer

Winter in a book
read in June
makes a mind feel cold.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at NaPoWriMo.net to write a lune or "American Haiku.")

NaPoWriMo 2016

After a few years off, we're trying NaPoWriMo again this April! A poem per day for the month of April. I'm planning to post 2 on Saturdays so I can take Sundays off. (Actually, I think I like the idea of posting Sunday poems, so we'll see.) Hopefully we'll see a few from other family members as well.