The “No” List – Rebecca Cook

Please, please no poems about the moon. No luvey-duvey-moony-eyed, circling round the outside of the gym, looking for a way in. We know everyone hated you, so let’s have none of your poems about her limpid eyes, pools of blue water you thought you’d drown in. No poems about how much you loved your grandmother and no little girls’ ribbon bows, the ends of your poems as tidy as folded laundry, and we’d like to put a stop to your sloppy similes because life really isn’t like a lawnmower gone astray. Life isn’t like a puppy smashed on the road or how unsettled you were when she kissed you good night and there was a little rise in your britches. Who cares, really, at the end of a hard day, if your first kiss was in a game of truth or dare and Tammy Elliot only kissed you because she lost? Let’s have no poems about kissing or that tangle of backwash at the back of your throat. Who cares if you squeezed that kitten, just to see what’d happen? Who cares if you’re sorry, if your despair (don’t call it that!) leads you to write an I’m-so-sorry poem, which leads you naturally to the blood on the Kleenex after the fight and all your now-forbidden teenaged angst welling up in a poem about the meaning of the universe unveiling itself on a shadowy night, inky black, and weren’t you listening to the instructions? No black poems, no white poems, no cookie-cutter hearts or muffled moans of pleasure. No going gently into that good night and definitely no stopping by the woods on a snowy evening. Just keep it simple, keep it plain, and please, please, no poems about your dead mother, how the clods of red Georgia clay hit the top of her coffin, thuck, thuck, thuck. Just take it easy with the alliteration and please, for the love of all that’s holy, no onomatopoeia.

– Rebecca Cook is a professor of creative writing at UTC.

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