Poetry Tow Truck 27: A Family Reunion, Of Sorts

Today’s prompt comes to us from my friend and fellow poet Kristin LaTour. And no, you do not have to spill any deep, dark family secrets to play along. We are talking word families here, words that are related through etymology!

So, here we go…

  1. Choose a word – any word. Or have someone choose one for you. (I chose ashes.)
  2. Go to Online Etymology Dictionary at http://www.etymonline.com. Place your word in the search box, and you will get a list of related words.
  3. Here is a partial list I made from the many choices under ashes: incinerate, ember, alkali, punk, kielbasa, urn, mull, cinder, phoenix, pollen, bust, ardent, fire.
  4. Use all or some of the words that appear underneath your initial word choice to create a poem draft. I did not use all of the words in my draft, but I used quite a few. My attempt is below, where I tried to stick with a Fourth of July theme.
  5. Underneath my draft is Kristin’s first draft from the word pistol. Feel free to leave us both comments!


With My Brothers, Burning Snakes

Sparklers spit fire, sizzle then dim

before a final fit of sparks rises

phoenix-like from the thin stick.


Bees hover, drunk with pollen, over

the kielbasa on the charcoal grill.

We are not allowed firecrackers or


bottle rockets, despite our ardent

pleas. We are given red boxes full

of little pucks like licorice drops.


We light a punk, its pungent

smoke and red ember tip ready

to transform us into conjurers.


We touch the centers of each disk,

watch them undulate into dusky

columns of ash, rising in mysterious


coils. The magic of that movement.

The delicate way they crumbled,

leaving powder marks on the cement.


How childhood blazed just as quickly.

How we still long for something burning

to touch our hard centers, make us rise.


The Etymology of “Pistol”

(Kristin LaTour)

Czech or German, pistol is a part of me

the word my grandmother assigned to me

when I would run wild, turn cartwheels

or talk back to my mother, words firing

from a part of brain I was unable to control.


From the words for pipe, tube, as in a way

to deliver water that shoots from a spout,

and later a small dagger that can silently slice

into flesh, hidden in a boot or a corset.

From life to death, and the washing of the bloody body.


Also known as the equalizer for small men,

or a derringer, for small short range shooting.

There are zip guns with their super quick bullets

and the big brother rifle with its bored grooves

like slides down the barrel, but not of fun.


Cartidges are necessary, from the later for “paper”

like the Magna Carta, rolled and inscribed with words

of freedom bored onto its flesh. And epistle, the commanding

words of the disciples’ letters, rolled and sent with God’s

blessing. Their readers commissioned, but not like the army

with its curse of death, the pistols held at short range.


Hold them in a holster, the leather sheath that means

hiding place, which daggers needed first.

But be careful, please, on those drunken weekend nights

when passion runs high. It was in my lifetime

they began being called Saturday Night Special

when my grandmother started calling me Pistol.


6 thoughts on “Poetry Tow Truck 27: A Family Reunion, Of Sorts

  1. Pingback: Shallows « naming constellations

  2. Pingback: Friday Freeforall: Poetry Prompts for That Summer Something « Margo Roby: Wordgathering

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