Merryn Rutledge’s “Mad Libs” and Gail Thomas’ “Granddaughter Interprets the World”

Mad Libs

by Merryn Rutledge

As fall lumbers into winter,
my grandson fills more and more of the blank spaces

in our mad lib tales with hibernating bears.
In COVID-crazy weekly calls

we two hermits try to claim as comic
the incomparably absurd:

Remote first grade–an iPad
where Marcel learns to read paused and poor connection,

words that appear like flash cards taunting him to say
the maddeningly obvious when his screen goes blurry or blank.

In December, Marcel complains his head aches.
I recall reading that isolated children’s bodies hurt.

Excepting some few eremites,
our species only ever lived in caves in groups.

So, brave boy, let rippling laughter answer longing
as we imagine hibernating bears,

not as solitary sleepers, but great balls of fur
filling the dark spaces where hope waits.

* Writing Prompt: Respond to or evoke the paradoxical “already/not yet” of what is hoped for. Dr. Barbara Holmes ends her wonderful book Joy Unspeakable with this notion (from theologian Geerhardus Vos) of the here/not yet fully here, seen/not yet seen aspects of what we hope for.

Granddaughter Interprets the World

by Gail Thomas

Some call these brooding clouds menace;
she calls them cows.
Staccato of jackhammers, whine of drills;
she dances.
To wake in a panic at 4 a.m. undoes me;
she sleeps,
oblivious to whatever pounds on the door.

Sunflower sags under the weight of its brown head, snaps
and falls in a sudden storm.
When I say it was relieved
to bow down, to give up smiling,
she teaches me to draw
a ladder to the sun
and gladly climb.

Previously published in Yellow Arrow Journal (Vol. V, No. 1, Winter 2020).

* Writing Prompt: This poem offers two points of views or interpretations of ordinary sights and sounds. Choose several familiar sights, sounds or objects and describe them in images that evoke opposite feelings.

Poem writing is Merryn Rutledge’s third career after teaching literature and writing at Phillips Exeter Academy and then running a national leadership development firm. Merryn’s essays on leadership and social justice were published in peer-reviewed journals and as book chapters; during this life stage she also published two books on strategic planning–always while writing poems. Merryn’s poems have appeared in Aurorean, Borrowed Solace, Speckled Trout Review, The Poetry Porch, Pudding, Multiplicity, Oddball Magazine and other journals. She writes, bikes, sings and practices meditation from her home on the South Shore. Her website:

Gail Thomas’ books are Odd Mercy, Waving Back, No Simple Wilderness, and Finding the Bear. Her poems have been widely published in journals and anthologies. Among her awards are the Charlotte Mew Prize from Headmistress Press, the Narrative Poetry Prize from Naugatuck River Review, and the Massachusetts Center for the Book’s “Must Read.” She has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony and Ucross, and she is a teacher and editor who lives in Western Massachusetts. Her website: