a response poem

Dear Jo,

A poet from Spain once told me
he never saw any people in our
suburban county town. “You keep
to your colonies like ants, leave
your pods only when encased in a shell.”

I know a boy who stares other drivers
in the eye when he stops his car
at a red light. “I have an intrusive
personality,” he says, “I feel
compelled to make my presence known.”

On warm Madrid evenings families
gather in the plaza to sip tinto
de verano
, admire strolling youth,
listen to street musicians. Parents
gossip while children kick a soccer ball
in front of an ancient church.

Are we strangers, we who circumnavigate
space together on the same wheel of time?



This poem is a response to Jo Hemmant’s poem “close,” found on her blog, florescence. Dave Bonta, author of via negativa, has been writing several of these response poems over the last month. It’s a great way to acknowledge another writer, and to carry on the thoughts and feelings generated in the piece.

16 thoughts on “a response poem

  1. Dave says:

    Hey, glad to see someone else pick up the form! And you tackle a tough subject. It is surprising, how empty American suburbs can seem, how desolate. We took a family vacation to Europe when I was 12, and I remember those evening promenades around the town or city square very well, everywhere we went in Spain.


  2. Pingback: Via Negativa
  3. christine says:

    Dave, going to Europe at a young age had to be life changing, especially to Spain, which is such a unique country. I’ve spent a lot of time there, learning their language and customs.

    And this form is very fun. It’s better than a mere writing prompt. There’s a true dialog going on.


  4. Jo says:

    WOW. This is wonderful. Thanks, you *grin*. You must send it off…….the last couplet is gorgeous. You’ve caught the isolation of living in the burbs……it’s not as bad where I live now, but in London even your own neighbours barely say hello. European living is so much more civilised, when I lived in Holland Italy everybody knew everybody, it was a given (though the downside is being suspicious of strangers/foreigners and a rather scary dose of racism….mmmm, food for thought)……what a lovely poem to wake up too!


  5. paisley says:

    we have grown so competitive i think that we are almost afraid that to be friendly will become fraternizing with the enemy… i am really looking to a difficult economic future to level out the playing field,, and in so doing bring us back to the front porches and in to touch with not only our neighbors but ourselves as well…

    this was really well stated sentiment,, my nly question is,, in response to what??? maybe i will know when i get over to jo’s…..


  6. Nathan says:

    Great poem. I live in an “ant colony” suburb and your piece gets it exactly right. I’ve also had the luck to live in other communities where life is different. I think a crucial difference is the emphasis on consumption. In the suburb you get the big box of a house and spend your time filling it up with stuff. That’s the focus.


  7. christine says:

    Thanks for these responses, everyone. The Spanish poet who made the ant observations was one of my professors. He was and is a poet who made so many interesting observations about life in the US, and in Spain. A really entertaining man to listen to.

    Scot, I’m sorry the page took so long to upload. Maybe now that it’s in your cache it will get better. I have no idea how the internet genies do their work.


  8. rob kistner says:

    We are all passengers on this space ship earth as we speed around the sun at approximately 67,000 miles per hour. It might behoove us to get better acquainted with our fellow travelers, and with this earth — its the only ship we have.

    I was taken with this piece…


  9. durable pigments says:

    The idea of response poems in general is very intriguing. Seems like there are some major themes surrounding identity, individuality and community, self and other that are floating the RWP group psyche lately. Is it something in the air? Does it have something to do with fall?

    I really enjoyed these vignettes, three glimpses into ways of being. The boy’s direct address to the reader is very striking in the second stanza. And I love the image in the third stanza, the gossiping parents, the children kicking the soccer ball in from of the ancient church. I feel like I’m there, and it’s a pleasant place to find oneself on a chilly New England morning.


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