once I beat a boy
but I've done it before
the stench of his brown skin crackles
against mine
snot bubbles blossom
where he waters his cheeks
I'm going to work with his father
I know he loves him
and hates me
his father's belt

This was the first exercise I tried by Taylor Mali: Using the two poems below as examples, write a similar short poem that begins with the word “Once” and ends with the speaker of the poem admitting or confessing or maybe suddenly realizing that he or she or it has become an inanimate object like a flower or a stone wall (and maybe always was). Rhyming is allowed but not encouraged. Innocence is required. Beauty is always appreciated. Wonder is useful. And a hint of science is fun, but stay this side of Nerdlandia.*

Winter Poem

once a snowflake fell
on my brow and i loved
it so much and i kissed
it and it was happy and called its cousins and brothers and a web
of snow engulfed me then
i reached to love them all
and i squeezed them and they became a spring rain and i stood perfectly
still and was a flower

Nikki Giovanni

* * *

This All Once was Field

Once, heaved by frost,
I lost my earthly balance
and toppled my highest stones to the forest floor.
But it was winter,
and the years had turned
the cows into trees,
and still I was an old stone wall that ran between them.

Taylor Mali

Written by LobodeSanPedro
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