May Play: Stretching


Sometimes we start poetry with a history of strains and tight muscles. For many of us, this month’s May Play felt like therapy, a chance to purge ourselves of some lactic acid and develop more elasticity. Instead of stretching our rhomboids and trapezius muscles, we began by stretching our confidence.

And our ability to have fun.

Even Nancy Davis Rosback commented on the therapy taking place at Tweetspeak last week. She wrote,

“You are helping to make this a place where people can feel accepted and loved, which opens the door to creativity, growth and healing. It is so fun to see the way each person writes their own unique piece that no one else could write. And i feel totally encouraged by the really nice comments, thanks.”

As we play with words, we increase our capacity to take risks with language. We discover new places of creativity and growth, once we give ourselves permission to stretch with words. This week we played with found poems, stretching out words taken from “Breaking it Off: Letter from Anne Sexton” by Maureen Doallas. Whenever we had a few minutes, we reached for a word and then stretched it into a new poem. We played on Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs.

Here’s a peek at some of your exercise from last week.

Rosanne Osborne begins by stretching out an “empty nightgown” and finds it full of revelation.

Sleeping with Promises

The empty nightgown
hanging on the door.
its bodiless shape
the vacuity of hope
that resurrection is more than myth.

The sleeveless wonder
of remembered arms, fingers
frozen in a single

Whole visions emerge
from thinning fabric
cloth returning
to threaded
patterns of provocation
casus belli.

Wisps of delight and destruction
hidden in shapeless folds
soft, cool to the touch
utterly empty…yet full.

@LaneArnold does her stretching with “roses”.

just after
twinkling bouquets
The summer damask rose
in an
old cut glass
beside her bed.
He always
left one
waiting there.
She thought of
that other day,
fifty-two summers ago,
when her
knelt on one knee,
and asked
what he already
knew the answer to:
Will you?
I will.
Every morning,
The yes of
Whimsy and joy,
wafting among quotidian
Lovers lasting
Outside the
bay window,
roseate puffs
flushing the face
of craggy young Rockies.
Alpenglow blush:
Two beauties
dancing to dawn’s delight,
on the ice-fringed
alpine lake,
mountain roses.

Natalie Salminen makes a decision to stretch open her “eyes” and finally visits the damp basement she’s been avoiding for years.


Mint, grey. Peach and the hot chili of pink.
Hmmmm….what to paint the basement.

For years I evaded the dark,
the damp, the buried underneath.

But now I tread easy towards the shadows,
even inviting them to tea,
bitter herbs and raw honey.

You won’t know until you face them,
looking into their dark eyes,
black steeds,
now fit for a fearless queen.

The paint chip says “Choices,”
the dreamy color of courage.
Brush dipped and
painting the shadows with Light.

When we stretch words, we can end up anywhere. We might hang from a door, sit beside mountains, or even paint the basement, finally. Regardless of where we find ourselves, we’ll discover an opportunity to stretch our voice. That’s the beauty of poetry and play.

This week is the final stretch of May Play, but it’s not too late to purge your lactic acid and play along!


Here’s how May Play works …

If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to Every Day Poems.

1. On Mondays, the Every Day Poem in your inbox becomes Play-Doh. Pinch off a word. Or more. Mix in your words and colors. Until yours.

2. Tweet your poems to us. Add a #mayplay hashtag so we can find it and maybe share it with the world.

3. Or leave your found poem here in the comment box.

We’ll read your tweets and share some of your weekly play each week. At the end of the month, we’ll choose a winning poem and ask the playful poet to record his or her poem to be featured in one of our upcoming Weekly Top 10 Poetic Picks.

Here’s today’s Every Day Poem. Now go play.


BONUS: Winner Takes the Chocolate

If you have a short story about why you love Every Day Poems, leave it in the comment box here or post it to your blog and leave us the link. We’ve already received some great mentions!

We’ll pick one of these stories and send the winner a box of gourmet chocolates.

Photo by Claire Burge. Used with permission. Post by Matthew Kreider.


Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $2.99— Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In May we’re exploring the theme Roses.

Red #9


  1. says

    Apparently, I’m not at home in Elizabeth…


    As a rose keep, I was an utter failure.
    The bleating lambs called to me,
    but I denied their need for fertile soil.
    Tomorrow seemed soon enough

    to prune dead growth and search
    for black leaf. Let them frolic
    in their own freedom, I thought,
    leggy stems reaching to the sky.

    Their thorns like cracked hooves
    were such a bother, a rancorous
    manifestation I took personally.
    My heart wasn’t right for it,

    this shepherding that involved
    soaker hoses, mulching roots,
    Let the wolves come. I napped
    peacefully beneath the oak.

  2. says

    From the train, it’s this:

    miles of turnpike jungles
    around row houses, backyards

    shadowed by marsh still brown,
    water poisoned and green,

    red roses torn from pink arbors.
    It matters but the bald city men

    in white shirts hedge hope and faith
    in refineries. Surely, the greatest

    of spectacles in Elizabeth, New Jersey,
    is the keepers of a plot of green.

  3. says

    As soon as I saw the poem in my inbox this morning, I said, “It’s Kathleen Norris!” I’m re-reading Dakota right now, and I get to go hear Norris speak next week! I’m going to have to MayPlay this week, so I can take her a little homage/offering :)

  4. Melody Pape Barnard says

    by Melody Pape Barnard on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 7:10am ·


    is a little word…..

    but with huge ramifications….

    it’s hard to let go of it….

    it can last a life time…

    or just a moment…..

    It resides deep inside….

    but on the surface it shows….

    in your actions….

    in your eyes…..

    and it makes for many woe’s…..

    It sticks in your brain….

    and causes many irrational thoughts

    about how you should guard your heart…..

    and never let anyone in…..

    to ever hurt you again…..

    But Love will always break through…..

    when that special person loves you….

    they will never give up….

    seeing through your hurt and guarded heart…..

    loving you through it……..

    with trust and patients……..

    being there for you ….

    and understanding your pain….

    turning your hurt …..

    into a cleansing rain………………………..

    ~Melody P Barnard~ Poems from Passion*

  5. says

    the train

    he sat on the train
    moving between cities
    that all looked the same
    next to him was a man in spectacles
    with a five o’clock shadow
    appearing long in the setting sun
    reading a plotting poison pen letter
    as they passed over the miles
    of neatly trimmed hedges
    and buttoned-down backyards
    lined with the well tended rose
    and he wondered how long
    it would take to reach the farm
    and if elizabeth
    was a good name for a cow.

  6. says

    Punching at Shadows

    Refining shadows was his delight
    in life. Marking their boundaries,
    polishing their angles, he clarified
    the fuzziness of their perception.

    Living with shadows like he did,
    the hard-core, face-on reality
    lost power. He knew only slant
    of experience, glancing light.

    When his shadow became itself,
    negative transforming its print,
    the eye reversed, seeing only
    the inner self, lost its dazzle.

  7. says

    Show Me, Elizabeth

    I watch them on the train
    across the aisle, moving
    silhouettes of their days:
    Elizabeth, and he.


    The kiss on the cheek
    planted swift, turns
    to thorny scratch, burns
    long and thin, drips

    red on shifting black dirt.
    Fragile petals live a breath
    away, a thin vein from death.
    Roses keep distant,

    far from drawn swords
    eager to impale petal-skin.
    He thinks that to win
    is to pluck stems of

    delicate short-lived beauty
    for arrangements in a vase;
    that fragrance may erase
    the scent of love’s demise.

    But watch when red drips:
    seeds bloom anew–
    emit ethereal perfume–
    into wild, vibrant, hybrid,

    blood-red roses! Are you a
    rose? Are you a thorn?
    Or one scratched by scorn
    of deceiver’s kiss?

    Show me your scar, Elizabeth.
    Show me your scar.

  8. says

    Breaking off Norris one more time,,,


    The rose reached for life
    through the shattered
    back glass

    Its petals celebrating
    in the landfill of corrosion,
    metal burning
    in lost vanity

    Rose thorns delicate
    against shards
    of glass,
    residue of middle-class
    standards of safety.

    The rose
    its halting beauty
    accenting untended
    greys and greens
    of loss.

  9. Connie Cornwell Chipman says

    Breaking off from Hope in Elizabeth.

    I work my garden,
    in spectacles and
    torn shirts,
    waiting and hoping that
    it will produce fruits of labor.

    None of this matters to others…
    until they inhale the roses.

    Beautiful, thought provoking.
    By taking in their scented breath
    memories are created that whisper,
    “Let us stay with you.”

  10. says

    And on the last day of May,,,


    The tear in the shirt
    holds the character
    of the man
    in its callused hand.

    Frayed like an unraveling
    rope, the shirt
    the losses and gains

    of a life that’s grappled
    with the hooks
    of error
    that teeter on whether

    or not. The grubbing of grain
    from resisting land,
    subject to rain
    that plots its own plane.

  11. Grace Marcella Brodhurst-Davis says

    A little poem for May’s Rose play…


    “Give her a rose a day,”
    The old lady smiled,
    Handing him a vaselet
    He took it in hand,
    Carefully stored it
    “For safekeeping,”
    His eyes, a polite blue twinkle
    Though never filled
    -an unsatisfied promise
    To the old lady

    But oh, she saw
    Anew with old eyes
    His boundless heart
    In his love’s radiant pride
    For pinks and reds
    He planted amidst
    Their front-yard greens
    In proclamation,
    “My dedication!”
    His promise fulfilled
    To his love

  12. Connie Cornwell Chipman says

    Roses is the greatest
    But, fine are faith and charity, surely.

    White and red hedges of roses
    on their green plots that
    wraps around row houses,
    Keeps the rose keepers of Elizabeth
    busy in their backyards.
    Poisoned marsh
    Scraps of jungle
    turnpike around refineries

    None of this matters though,
    to the bald men in spectacles
    and torn shirts—thrown
    from a train in the city of roses

  13. says


    Men in spectacles peer at ancient letters
    embedded in moldering manuscripts.

    Deciphering, discerning, determining,
    they dissect the distinctive phonemes

    of tongues they’ve never heard,
    reverberations in their inner ears

    more imaginative than real. They become
    time-travelers as they bore into fragments

    like pine beetles boring into the bark
    to lay their eggs, overcome the natural

    defenses of the tree. These lensed eyes
    lay larvae, metamorphose meaning.

  14. connie cornwell chipman says

    Just a little redo:

    Roses are the greatest,
    but, charity can be fine
    sometimes, surely.

    White and red hedges of roses
    on green plots
    that wrap around row houses
    keeps the rose keepers of Elizabeth busy
    in their backyards.

    Poisoned marsh water
    brown and still
    causes foliage to wilt
    as if on weed.

    Trees, scraps of jungle
    that turnpike around refineries
    where birds turn up their noses
    as they fly by
    seem to dominate the view.

    None of this matters though
    to the rose keepers–bald
    men in spectacles and torn
    shirts who are thankful
    for the garden gloves–charity
    tossed from the train
    that passed through Elizabeth.

  15. says


    The flowing dress, flowered print–
    cross between cloister habit
    and Hawaiian muumuu–
    she wore with socks and trainers
    set her apart from all the rest.
    A bag lady with a distinctive style,
    her hair cropped and straight.
    Hard to recognize the Bennington
    coed or the monastic oblate
    in the ordinary comfort of someone
    barely noticed on the street.
    Yet, her disarming insight
    controlled her audience, made each one
    feel somehow like her best friend.
    With candor and objectivity
    she explored her struggle with acedia,
    her acceptance of life circumstances
    she couldn’t/wouldn’t change.
    We saw Hawaii through her eyes,
    eyes accustomed to viewing roses
    among the scrap in Elizabeth.

  16. says

    I know it’s June, so I won’t qualify for the chocolate :) but I wanted to add my little homage to Kathleen Norris and roses, simply because I can :)

    Her First Roses

    were floribunda, frothy white,
    two bushes (one on each side of
    her green porch steps) faithfully pruned,
    of blackspot, watered, fertilized,
    loved through fourteen months of looking

    for work. How gladly she greeted
    the first bouquet in May, centering
    on the butcher block island a
    blue bowl of creamy blooms, her harvest
    offering to the gods of hope
    and the unemployed.


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