Improvised Tales

Written for:  dVerse Poets Pub – Meeting The Bar:  The Death Sentence
(posted by Gospel Isosceles)

“I’ve been reading Michael Simms’ blog Vox Populi – A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature for four years now and was recently intrigued by a poetry challenge the poet/curator gave himself. Rule #2: The poem must explore the theme of ‘the end of civilization as we know it.’”


When the coyotes surrounded you
They wanted to eat your dog not
You who called your boyfriend to drive
His pickup right into the middle of
The pack and scattered the coyotes
And you knew the coyotes were
In the abandoned country club because
Wolves and cougars were hunted out
A hundred years ago and the coyotes
Keep out the cats so the songbirds
Are everywhere spreading the seeds
Of wildflowers which carpet the old
Fairways and the ruined clubhouse
Where the owls live and maybe
We’re okay with the end of civilization
As we know it.

-Michael Simms, excerpt from ‘The end of civilization as we know it’ originally published on Vox Populi, Jan. 18, 2020

Rule 1:  The poem must tell a story in one sentence.
Rule 2:  The poem must explore the theme of ‘the end of civilization as we know it.’
Rule 3:  The story must tell of an odd or embarrassing incident, either heard about, witnessed, or autobiographical. This humanistic element keeps our narrating selves from getting too lofty and far-removed, and may even prove an opportunity for light-hearted humor.  The poem must explore the theme of ‘the end of civilization as we know it.’

There is one more hidden rule that must be followed if your poem is to be a “death sentence” in its pure form: it must be improvised.

Wild Turkeys

The wild turkeys had found
a home in front of a hospital,
and seemed to multiply, stay
unafraid of people (or Thanksgiving),
and accept food out of a paper bag
fed to them by an old woman which
some thought was a good thing if
the turkeys were hungry, and others
thought was a bad thing because
they thought the turkeys a nuisance
like when they decide to cross
the street, and every driver
stops for them.


The Girl Who Peed Into A Cup

There was a time I was on
an express bus going from
work to home, sitting next
to a friend who–ten minutes
into the trip–decided she
had to pee right then
and could not wait another
moment, prompting us
to retrieve a large plastic
soda cup (with lid), hoping
no one on the bus could see
or hazard a guess as to
what was happening, but
we seemed to get away with
it, and now I find myself
wondering what might have
transpired, if plastic
had not been around, yet
I would rather save sea
life than use plastic.

About purplepeninportland

I am a freelance poet, born and bred in Brooklyn, New York. I live with my husband, John, and two charming rescue dogs–Marion Miller and Murphy. We spent eight lovely years in Portland, OR, but are now back in New York. My goal is to create and share poetry with others who write, or simply enjoy reading poetry. I hope to touch a nerve in you, and feel your sparks as well.
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18 Responses to Improvised Tales

  1. msjadeli says:

    Turkeys are gentle creatures, so non-competing, it’s a mystery why waiting a moment for them to cross the street would be such a big deal…


  2. kim881 says:

    The second one reminded me of nightmares I have regularly about having to pee under weird circumstances. They always wake me up.


  3. Frank Hubeny says:

    I especially liked the dilemma presented in the second one with the use of plastic.


  4. hank77 says:


    In an emergency rules are made to be broken. It helps solve an immediate problem that it can be forgiven. Lesson learnt, to pee at leisure before any journey!



  5. Living in that kind of harmony with wild turkeys all about sounds good to me. We could use all the teachers of patience we can get! And what is it about anticipating a long bus ride that just makes one suddenly desperately have to pee? Glad it worked out for your friend.


  6. And if you have wild turkey and a plastic cup you can treat yourself to a shot 🙂
    Not exactly a combo but it crossed my mind


  7. Mish says:

    I like the matter of fact approach to both of these, adhering to the humanistic element that Amaya was looking for. My favourite is the second one as you place no judgement during this bizarre situation but instead share your inquisitiveness.The ending was whimsical and unexpected.


  8. I really enjoyed both of these poems.


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