Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Ninety / The Nineties

“I heard one presidential candidate say that what this country 
needed was a president for the nineties. I was set to run again. 
I thought he said a president IN his nineties.” 
― Ronald ReaganSpeaking My Mind: Selected Speeches

“She's all brute force and '90s clichés.” 
― Rainbow RowellCarry On

“People have told me 'Betty, Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with 
old friends....'  At my age, if I wanted to keep in touch 
with old friends, I'd need a Ouija board” 
― Betty White

Midweek Motif ~ 
Ninety / The Nineties

Because this is Leap Year, March 30th is the 90th day of the year. Let's celebrate the number 90 and ninety minutes, ninetieth days, ninetieth years, the  1990s or the 1890s:
The Gay Nineties is an American nostalgic term referring to the decade of the 1890s. It is known in the United Kingdom as the Naughty Nineties, and refers there to the decade of supposedly decadent art by Aubrey Beardsley, the witty plays and trial of Oscar Wilde, society scandals and the beginning of the suffragette movement).
(Note that in the USA, we are just beginning to expose the history of the 1890s from other than white points of view.  That's why I include the Lucille Clifton poem below.  I wonder if that is true of other locations as well?)

 Your Challenge:  Today you have a vast choice of subject: the 90s.  There are two cautions: (1) write a new poem and (2) let your theme echo in your poem like a motif in music.  One way to do that is by refrain or repetition, but there are many other ways.  Enjoy.

marches in uniform down the traffic stripe
at the center of the street, counts time
to the unseen web that has rearranged
the air around him, his left hand
stiff as a leather strap along his side,
the other saluting right through the decades
as if they weren't there, as if everyone under ninety
were pervasive fog the morning would dispel
in its own good time, as if the high school band
all flapping thighs and cuffs behind him
were as ghostly as the tumbleweed on every road
dead-ended in the present, all the ancient infantry
shoulder right, through a skein of bone, presenting arms
across the drift, nothing but empty graves now
to round off another century,
the sweet honey of the old cadence, the streets
going by at attention, the banners glistening with dew,
the wives and children blowing kisses.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, Father William, a hearty old man,
Now tell me the reason I pray.

In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember'd that youth would fly fast,
And abused not my health and my vigour at first
That I never might need them at last.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And pleasures with youth pass away,
And yet you lament not the days that are gone,
Now tell me the reason I pray.

In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember'd that youth could not last;
I thought of the future whatever I did,
That I never might grieve for the past.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And life must be hastening away;
You are chearful, and love to converse upon death!
Now tell me the reason I pray.

I am chearful, young man, Father William replied,
Let the cause thy attention engage;
In the days of my youth I remember'd my God!
And He hath not forgotten my age.

they thought the field was wasting
and so they gathered the marker rocks and stones and
piled them into a barn    they say that the rocks were shaped
some of them scratched with triangles and other forms    they
must have been trying to invent some new language they say
the rocks went to build that wall there guarding the manor and
some few were used for the state house
crops refused to grow
i say the stones marked an old tongue and it was called eternity
and pointed toward the river    i say that after that collection
no pillow in the big house dreamed    i say that somewhere under
here moulders one called alice whose great grandson is old now
too and refuses to talk about slavery    i say that at the
masters table only one plate is set for supper    i say no seed
can flourish on this ground once planted then forsaken    wild
berries warm a field of bones
bloom how you must i say


Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community.

                                     (Next week Susan's Midweek will be ~ Citizenship)


  1. Good morning, Poets United! I hope this odd motif stimulates all sorts of imagination. It took me a while to solve its problem--and with two new cats in my home this week--it took me a while to concentrate on it. And now, in this minute, everything seems bright and possible. I'm looking forward to your poems.

  2. Thank you for the prompt - yes..a unique prompt but good to be challenged - i think we opted for refrain and repetition - as we normally do ;)

    1. Yes, Ma'am, that I know. I'm glad you're here.

  3. Hello everyone,

    Wooo hoooo :D its time for Midweek Motif. Sharing my poem "Reminiscence" hope you guys like it.

    Thank you Susan for the wonderful inspiration.
    Lots of love,

  4. Thank you for the prompt, Susan. I look forward to reading some interesting poems.

    1. Good to see you. The variety is wonderful.

  5. Happy Wednesday every one, Thanks Susan for an interesting [out of the box] kind of prompt

    much love...

    1. I'm back in the box next week, Gillena, a huge box.

  6. What joy to be here again! Hope my net cooperates. Hey Susan I visited the nineteenth century for this extraordinary and fascinating Prompt.

  7. The 90's mean one thing to me - the old growth forests of Clayoquot Sound and standing on the road for the trees. It was epic, my friends. I have never been more alive.

  8. Great challenging prompt. Thanks Susan.

  9. Thank you for this rich prompt, Susan. It made me realise that was a VERY eventful decade for me – so much so that I can't come up with a poem but will likely get several chapters of memoir instead!

  10. Lovely Prompt. I posted mine..

  11. Wonderful promt Susan...I went on a light hearted silly journey back on mine...:-)

    1. Thank you for taking me there. Not so silly at all!

  12. I decided to do a reflection on the age of 90. Ive known a number of people who have lived until their early to mid 90s and always wondered if I could "endure" that long. Happy April to all of you!


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