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Poetry Prompts

Monday Poetry Prompt: Duty


This week let’s a poem about duty. (No sniggering in the back.) We all have duties to perform, some pleasant, some not so. Consider it your duty to post a poem in the comment below.



About Bartholomew Barker

Bartholomew Barker is one of the organizers of Living Poetry, a collection of poets and poetry lovers in the Triangle region of North Carolina. Born and raised in Ohio, studied in Chicago, he worked in Connecticut for nearly twenty years before moving to Hillsborough where he makes money as a computer programmer to fund his poetry habit.


9 thoughts on “Monday Poetry Prompt: Duty

  1. about a friend who died in Iraq and my return from there:


    It’s the act
    of trying
    to comprehend the sentence
    passed through the tent,
    walked down, passed
    from bunk to bunk.
    As consciousness comes
    there is a dread that sinks
    in — pinning my soul,
    which my body
    cannot rise without,
    down into the curve of the mattress.

    Your essence may stay
    in a place where I
    fed a thin, half-grown fox
    an MRE at midnight,
    where the earth smell from the fields
    is strong
    in the morning sun,
    where dogs near the road are shot
    as target practice,
    where the sago palms are beautiful
    by the muddy river —
    while your body
    lies in the hold
    of a transport plane, draped
    in bright
    red, white, and blue.

    In Kuwait I sat in a garden
    shielded by a thornbush hedge
    from the dune meadows
    of the Persian Gulf. The Arab
    gardener in his navy blue jumpsuit,
    with his long,
    pepper-gray beard, ignored me
    in a friendly way, slowly pushing
    his battered green wheelbarrow
    to the day’s new spot where
    the bright yellow flowers
    of the tansy ragwort shouldered
    into the more delicate ornamentals. Like
    a close to retirement school principal
    he pondered the ragwort, encroaching
    from its home with the sea blite
    in the dune meadow as
    a car bomb went off
    in the back of my mind
    for the last time,

    There is the whine of the
    jet plane, engines charging,
    and elation moves in a way
    that becomes seismic
    through the plane-load of soldiers,
    as the commercial pilot calls
    “wheels up” over the intercom.

    Coming off the plane,
    stopped for refuel
    in Bangor, Maine, I
    shook the hand of a WWII veteran —
    his Navy cap bright with ornaments —
    who, the line slowing,
    looked offended a moment later
    when I wouldn’t shake his hand.
    He had forgotten, but
    he will stand there for us
    when able-bodied men won’t
    and he knows what you’ve done.

    I can do nothing
    for your wife, your
    small children. But
    know that someone
    will mow the lawn.

    Liked by 2 people

    Posted by Steve Croft | August 27, 2019, 7:42 PM
    • I like the description of the Arab gardener.


      Posted by Bartholomew Barker | August 27, 2019, 9:27 PM
      • Thanks. He was interesting to watch. Here is another Duty poem, maybe — it seemed like duty. This was the most beautiful garden I saw while on a deployment (poem was published in Sky Island Journal):

        On a Hill Outside Paghman, Afghanistan

        In this ancient country floating high on the world,
        Humvees circled on a hill, there is nothing to do
        in a gun turret but watch the quiet land and think:
        why are we here where the war has made us
        fewer by six so far? We’ve run the goat farmer off
        his hilltop again, always laughing trying to count
        the number of goats that come out of the small door
        of his stone house before he herds them down the hill,
        under Kabul Valley’s high bowl of mountains.

        He will return tomorrow when, if the night brings
        no fighting, we leave to patrol back through Paghman,
        return to camp. There will be no answer by then.
        But we’ll stop in the town’s central garden, fed
        by the stream that runs into the valley, and beauty
        will make me glad for a moment to be in this country
        of pack animals and no railroads, serene now like
        the tribes have finally worked a knot that holds them
        together, where green trees and bright flowers, trills
        of sparrows under jagged snow-capped mountains,
        make the wildest beauty I’ve ever seen.


        Liked by 1 person

        Posted by Steve Croft | August 30, 2019, 12:57 PM
  2. honor your mother
    when dementia arrives, an
    unbearable weight

    Liked by 2 people

    Posted by JeanMarie | August 26, 2019, 10:38 PM

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