Writing Prompt

I find writing prompts that give phrases and word lists to be the most rich and productive for me. I compiled the following this morning and set to. To be fair, the resulting poem below is minimally revised. I wrote it and played around with it for a little while. You can use all of the suggestions in the list below or pick and choose. Sometimes words and phrases on the list spark word play or sound play and really grow beyond the confines of the prompt. Take 20 minutes or so for the initial free-write, then if you feel it has potential, revisit. Have fun.


  • it was always something
  • there was always someone
  • stone
  • eyelid
  • white
  • brain
  • dark
  • fur
  • blizzard
  • dressed up
  • tools
  • Reference a children’s book


The Long Winter

Cold stone in the brain; one landmark

around which the blizzard swirled.

Wind, slamming into the cabin like an open hand

against bone. Our last winter there

we read the Long Winter.  On the prairie,

girls were wrapped to their eyes in fur muffs,

but still wore dresses. Wind untwines

the layers, hammers the doors to get in.

We slept in snowsuits, our flour stores low.


Little Carrie, too thin  to withstand

that kind of cold. In The Long Winter there was always

someone tracking too far to the left, almost lost, almost lost

for good, on the prairie. We got turned around too

between our own barn and outhouse,

ending up at the back door, sealed with plastic for winter.

I practiced the platitude ‘all’s well that ends well’,

like Ma while whimpering like Carrie: ‘I just can’t

get warm’. And if my eyes weren’t bleeding from driven ice

like Laura’s, I was still dull, so dull I never thought

to make an apple pie with green tomatoes, never

equipped the kids with thimbles to etch pictures

on the frosted windows. There was a stone

in my brain around which the ice froze

in pretty patterns like lashes: dark eyelid, dark eyelid

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