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…
- Choose a word – any word. Or have someone choose one for you. (I chose ashes.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”
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.