A daily poetry practice to generate and sustain the Life/Lines among us, for published and novice poets alike
Join us to receive a daily poetry prompt every weekday during April. Sign up here!
Write a short poem (rhyming not necessary) that includes each of the following 5 words (anywhere and in any order). Poems should not exceed 7 or 8 lines.
Send us your poem via our Submissions page or post on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #lifelines.
Today’s words were contributed by Tila Neguse, project coordinator for The Divided City: An Urban Humanities Initiative, a partnership of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Washington University’s Center for the Humanities and Sam Fox School.
Poems submitted for April 27
Displaced public cries:
"Open the city!" A smart
design? Time will tell.
Those displaced by the city
Where they designated disposable by the public?
Opening hard questions takes resilience
— Braveheart Gillani
— 2020 04 27 by Lloyd Klinedinst
The city is open again, woohoo! huzzah!
Shingles are hung in the marketplace and
we return like thieves—
masked, gloved, with money to burn.
Architects were asked to design this new public square
that is meant to keep us apart
and to hide the graves
of the displaced.
— Jeannette Cooperman
He was presently displaced, not merely homeless, you see.
In any park in any city, pigeons and squirrels are less free.
With the design of the bandstand next to a sycamore tree,
No public eyes fly open, he was free now to pee.
In an Illness of Both Body and Soul
The moral of the story is
A public displaced by design---whose design?
Is it God or King? Is there a God? Is there a King?
The city is open for the flies, cockroaches, mice.
I mumbo jumbo too much----me?
I’m a sack of bent bones moaning in bed.
I am the groan of walled in humanity
Clueless about everything but looking for God, King.
— Dan Cuddy
Though our city is closed down because of Covid-19 virus
And there are no public gatherings among us
We are displaced as churches, schools, and our employers are closed
But through it all our hearts and minds will stay open
For God has a plan and unique design for all of us as he has spoken.
Thank the Lord and say an Amen for soon all will reopen!
— Maureen Kleekamp
Without loved ones near to celebrate,
we design birthdays and graduations and proms.
Impatient, we beg for the city to open.
Displaced from normal routines, the public longs for parks and shops and haircuts and hugs
Yet people are dying,
without loved ones near to mourn.
— Stacey Barton, MSW, LCSW 04.27.2020
An open public design;
the heart of the city.
A place where rich families
can parade among the flowers
while the displaced die in the shadows.
Just far enough out of sight
for us to pretend they were never there.
No shelter, food, clothes, or health care.
No arch memorabilia and baseball souvenirs.
They are just a shadow of resistance
you’re trying to push out of existence
on society’s fringes.
— Susan Lively
The deer city rises among the displaced parking lots
the cars now feral and free. In a public spot
the coyote pop-up, rodent castoffs -- like your cat,
that psychotic killing machine, left on your pillow –
except this is open to all who hunger, if you
can un-tame your tastes. These designs don’t
quell the wild, they’ve adapted for years
singing along the canyons of roadway
and skyscraper, walking through your
yard at night like you are not here.
— M.E. Hope
I opened my door and met a violent accusation.
The city itself, an accusation against my solitude. Where are you?
demands the furious public, and I, blinking, cannot reply.
I had great designs once: I was on my way.
Now I hover three stories up, afraid of spilling over,
like water displaced by the admission of a silver coin.
— Gwyneth Henke
— james goodman 4.27.20
The city's naked, empty space
Calling to the birds and squirrels
Shines in the morning light
Clean, open and free in this public place
Humans painfully displaced by god's great design
Teaching us a lesson we can only learn
When we can smell fresh air and hear the silence
Knowing gratitude to Mother Earth
And gaining the wisdom to take care of her.
— Christine Schutz
The obvious poem about
The obvious city by
A city with open public space
and marvelous design.
And to sound intellectual
put displaced or homeless
in the obvious poem which
will remain a word.
The obvious, open, city, design will
exist only for the obvious public.
— Jey Sushil (Track for International Writers)
The city [insert yours here, member of its public] is closed.
We’ll let you know when it is once again open
so you can come on down and better and more personally ignore
the displaced and misplaced.
If there is to be any grace in this moment
it will be found in answer to this:
Have we switched the design?
— Steve Givens
Isolation goes against
Open the city, the public cries
Shut in our homes
We could be anywhere
We've all been dis-placed.
Dangerous displaced priorities:
Profits over people, capitalism’s creed.
Whose decision, whose design
To open public beaches,
To lift strict restrictions?
And all the while we grieve the loss of a friend,
A father, a mother, a brother, a sister.
A neighbor, a teacher, a nurse, a doctor.
Unlike stock market figures,
These losses too numerous to count.
— Pam Hughes
There Are Lilacs
By design, there are lilacs.
A stand grew near my mother's open door.
When I walk city streets, I know where to find them,
which public park, front yard, or empty lot.
Their scent blows towards me from a block away.
Envelop me! Ah, lilacs! I hesitate.
My pleasure in them momentarily displaced;
What else might travel on the air, over what distance,
on a windy day?
Ah, lilacs. I bury my face in their abundant blooms.
— January Kiefer
The design of the bubble normal now
Small oasis in the middle of the city
Empty hours filled with quiet
Open public places come alive
The bubble will not hold
The circle widens
Searching for safe edges
— Carol Haake 4/27/2020
Driving out of the city, it is less crowded than before.
Open sky can be seen and felt
as the clean air cools to warm.
They will not abandon the public parks
though the barricades are there.
Designed to help the displaced
— Laurie Jalenak
This Corporation I work at, that turns its face away from its own public
Tall hard back serrated steps rib by rib into battle ready ramparts that wing out glowering
Down at a city that always, keeps its heart open to me.
An angry design for a cruel mission
communities histories feelings people futures milled into dollars
Elective surgeries vaporize staff salaries
Displaced lives, split open with knowing knives.
Displaced as I feel in my city,
It’s hard, at times, to feel witty,
An open heart by design,
For this public of mine,
Perhaps I shall write a wee ditty.
— Kelley Lingle
When our doors are finally open
by design or by decree
what will we have gathered
from our Covid reverie
will we treasure more our city
will we care for the displaced
will we hug our friends in public
or will our memories be erased
The city was wide open
when I walked into Jesuit Hall
asking for a public exorcism.
My design was foiled when we learned
I had forgotten my meds. Soon I was
displaced, deconstructed, defiled,
drowning in an ambulance.
— Matthew Freeman
Displaced into dens, city
Dwellers start to design
A virtual public where
Travel is a breeze through
An open window and happy hour
Is a doldrum jostled by
An unexpected knock on the
Front door of our flattened life.
— John Randall
Failed to notice all the most obvious signs
This renewal was really created by design
An attempt to remove the poor and displaced
And many of those who had fallen from grace
The public won’t have to open their eyes to see
That desperate faces abound in our fair city
— Betty Springfield
In a BOX?
The city once had much open space
But as time has passed this design went from grace
To soaring building and sidewalks small
The place for the public was less for all.
And space we need to grow our mind
To explore the universe to learn and find
We must not be displaced and find a place
To continue our journey to create.
— Jan Newman LA72
Displaced public design open city.
I have settled, with uncertainty, into this arid and private place.
A refugee from the liquid city and the flow of public space.
But I design each day with a fluid dream, sprung from tears on my daughter’s face.
And the wellspring of faith from the misplaced souls who will never be replaced.
What happens now to the waters of time that misfortune has displaced?
Have they changed the shape of the landscape? Are the lowlands again fertile and chaste?
When we look deep into fresh spring waters, will they reflect a different face?
And If we thirst for something better, are we willing to suffer the taste?
— Kevin Farrell
Public Displays of Affection
I teased your lower lip between my teeth,
sucking it slow like fruit, in that moment
you displaced me. Past time and gravity, our bodies
open in ways beyond design. I let your lip slide out,
missing the part of you that made me whole before
you flew to a faraway city leaving me
to calculate the cost of a kiss.
— Casey Hampton
By design, what was public, in the past,
was open to the displaced.
Yet what was public, on the ground,
In cities, was displaced openess,
Displaced publicness, displaced design.
What will come next for the displaced future?
Open design, open public, displaced citiness.
— Billy Acree
With an official declaration the
city will open with alacrity.
Residents will carry on with frenzied purpose.
The displaced public will solder their hopes
to a grand design whereby health and wealth
flourish, and a new normal is no longer masked
in inequality, cloaked in injustice, sanitized with lies.
— Linda O'Connell
designed to be open
closed to the public
souls of the people
— Mason A.
a pandemic opens
public squares of cities
displaced animals return
claiming the divine design
— John J. Han
Fixed on National Public Radio, I almost smashed the box turtle.
Relieved, I pulled over and displaced him to green safety.
But what had he designed?
Did it figure in the city? (“Get past these goddamned cars!”)
Or did he see in the asphalt a joyous invitation to the open road?
— Robert Henke
my body is not my own
[as if I didn’t already know]
permeable and porous and public
a splurging multitude of open lifelines and deathlines
a fragile, dangerous, networked city
“c’mon now, honey, hold yourself together”
lines of flight displaced and misplaced
contain and corset and control
even the best laid designs sequester and sanitize
that’s what we need now, right?
A designer who wanted publicity
Displaced fancy design with simplicity
He opened his fly
And then he let fly
With a public display of efficity
— Phil Coleman
A public displaced
Needs an open
the gardener received a phone call before he smugly tucked my roots into warm soil
so I lie exposed and displaced, rather in disgrace,
left to flounce around under
whimsy open air
my city awaits,
I spy my kin the carrot
over unscalable walls, designed in spite
nightmares flash, I arrive at public composting, adieu to my brothers and sisters!
A New Adventure
Store now open
features a new type of design,
a first for this city.
Created for a new experience,
not to displace old-fashion shops.
Public welcome to browse,
— Terrie Jacks
the city yet to come
where the public and the private
but open by design
let the displaced
in the wilderness
Empty public spaces.
Loud car chimes.
Blue sky yellow sunshine.
Lovely bird chirping.
Stay inside, while keeping five senses sharpened.
Joy displaces my melancholy.
— Merry May
A city divided,
between the haves and have nots,
and the divide so uneven,
leaving so many displaced people
living in the open in public doorways
and tourist sites.
The city founders never had plans
or designs for such a happening.
Where did we go wrong?
If I open this door inside you
maybe I’ll find a glittering city
without a public, because you are
private by design. And if I should decide
then, to move in does this mean
that we are both displaced?
— Julia Gordon-Bramer
The public design
In the open city.
Welcome to my city neighborhood.
Space with the public in mind.
Life is close, tight, yet
We surround beauty here.
Central to our being we are open by design.
— Karen Engelkenjohn 2/27/2020
I still remember the open city.
The sounds of the public:
The sirens, the rubber on pavement, shells on pavement, gunshots
Or was that fireworks?
The smell of fried onions and smoke and sewage,
The design of the displaced--
Red bricks crumbling under this arch into the sky.
— Tila Neguse
downside-up by design.
open only downwards
a new public
below the city
deep underground, in a city
the displaced, the last
the survivors dwell
At the end of the day
— Tobias Feldman (International Writers Track)
The Silence of 2020
Empty schools just the bells ringing.
A quiet city only birds singing.
Places of worship standing still.
Restaurant’s with a long road up hill.
Displaced workers so sad to see.
Public workers being the best they can be.
Plants and warehouses in the dark.
Silent playgrounds at the park.
Open stores have trouble keeping stocked.
Many small businesses have their doors locked.
Springtime’s design burst into bloom.
Shuttered halls no bride or groom.
Veterans laid to rest,no taps played.
Solemn funerals where respects are not paid.
People anxious with concern.
College students secluded to learn
More people than you ever see outside.
Interstate highways are a quick ride.
Despite the constant things not
going are way.
We must meet the challenges facing us each day.
— Dave Brendel
Although I love this city
I feel so displaced
especially now when the world
appears so upside down. There is no
“public” anymore. We are separated not
by choice but by design.
I throw open a window yearning
for the day I can resume my life.
— Becky Lewellen Povich
Can a whole city be displaced?
Can a whole future be erased?
When the french doors to the public people
fly off their hinges
under the design of the sun,
Where will you go?
— Ellery Saluck
Surviving inner-city gangland in the 80's
Working in overcrowded public school classrooms with Gen Z
Mad at the world
And feeling like our destruction was by design
Until resilience, determination, and faith
Defeat in my mind
And opened my eyes.
— J. Thomas
Revised Postcard Memories
In the city of my birth
Not a city, like New York, or St. Louis - more of a town.
The county seat, sporting a beautiful courthouse with a golden dome.
Up the hill on Main Street, the County Museum of American Art.
Red brick, pillars, classic, not sure what the style is called.
Now, open to the public, an annex, modern by design,
a monstrous cold, concrete and glass appendage,
Resembling a child's periscope with mirrors to spy around corners of a room.
No parking lot; displaced by wildflower garden.
— Kim Lehnhoff
He shows me his masterpiece:
A public city park near the arroyo.
A disembodied Frank Sinatra voice
Welcomes you to enjoy “dis place,”
Across the street from his old hacienda.
Every bronze plaque now blooms green,
The walkways all curving by design--
Your park is my park, Frank.
— Jo Schaper
From the Architect’s Desk
The public architects envisioned
A city of open spaces and green parks
They laid their designs on the projects,
Never considering the displaced.
Open the public city hydrant.
Water runs the streets by design
Kids at play, cars displaced.
The city alive!
A carnival! Of sounds, of lights,
and neon’s bright—
OPEN it shines, announces with glee
down public sidewalks
that wander all over,
a social design that
invites feet to follow,
to echo along—Well,
once it was so!
A memory now
in a shadow
by a thing zoonotic.
— Bernie Mossotti 4.27.2020
We have been displaced by design
If we open the city too soon it’s a crime.
The public cries, “can you spare a dime?”
sand shuffled outside
city limits—displace your
grains to feed the public.
no one is open for business,
all are left to taste the salt
strips in god's design.
— Sabrina Spence
Headline image: Aritra Mondal on Unsplash