The Art of the Very Short Poem: Riddle poems

This week I took a class at the Lighthouse about writing very short poems. I am a fan of twitter poems, so my hope was to learn a few things. I did. It was a great class. We talked briefly about riddle poems, poems that describe an object or present it in metaphor. My riddle poem isn’t that hard to figure out, but I like the way it sounds. Leave your guess in a comment. Here it is:

This morning it was a mess,
but with a blur of innovation
it whirred into a helicopter.
For now. And tomorrow–
a tractor, a transformer, a skyscraper,
a whim from the fast fingers
of a child.

The Art of the Very Short Poem

I recently took a class on very short poetry at the Lighthouse Lit Fest. One of the prompts Lynn Wagner had us do was to highlight words from longer poems to create our own very short poem. Fun exercise. I’m not normally a fan of found poetry, but this one turned out okay. I chose to use Emily Dickinson’s 788. Dickinson’s words are in gray, and I’ve highlighted my choices. I’ll post a few more later this week. Enjoy!

Publication – is the Auction
Of the Mind of Man –
Poverty – be justifying
For so foul a thing
Possibly – but We – would rather
From Our Garret go
White – unto the White Creator –
Than invest – Our Snow –
Thought belong to Him who gave it –
Then – to Him Who bear
It’s Corporeal illustration – sell
The Royal Air –
In the Parcel – Be the Merchant
Of the Heavenly Grace
But reduce no Human Spirit
To Disgrace of Price –

The Teacher Poet: A (very) Short Tanka Series

The gurus at Tweetspeak Poetry have issued the challenge of writing a resume as a poem. So here’s my resume, in case anybody is hiring:

The Teacher Poet by Joel E. Jacobson

high school student
interprets literary classics
said English teachers
I loved to hate

knowing little
about myself or careers,
the college plan
changed and changed and changed,
rough drafts to discover purpose

desert wanderer
working as a corporate trainer–
a teaching mirage?
Shouldn’t drinking be a symbol
for knowledge and a full life?

English teacher
responsible for classics
he read in his youth;
these graduates’ embrace
years later, understanding

Kindle Book on Sale!

To celebrate National Poetry Month, my chapbook, “Water the Mud (Kindle Version)” is on sale for $0.99! (I tried to make it free but the system would have nothing to do with that…sorry! I tried!) Search for “Water the Mud” on your Kindle (or Kindle App) or click here. The sale is good for the month of April. Tell your friends!

Thanks for supporting your local poet!

Blindsided: Writing Prompt from TSP

Every Day Poems posted this photograph as a prompt on their facebook page.

by Joel E. Jacobson

It’s when I’m already running late
that I hit every light red,
that I get stuck behind
the only guy in the state
whose 10-under-the-speed-limit-
bumper-sticker message to me
is that I need to celebrate world peas,
Darwin fish eats Jesus fish,
I should wish for coexistence–

by the way
that irony
is not funny
to me

My one, true desire
is for you to get a flat tire,
pull over, and suffer
for your rush-hour sins
of being a hindrance.

Full of haste, I jerk the wheel
to fly around the hippy imbecile
when I hear the honk and squeal
and swerve back into my place in line.

My heart pounds like my mind did
moments before being blindsided
by the slap of flapping wings
in the face of judgement.

Now Available: Water the Mud

Water the Mud: poems by Joel E. JacobsonI’m pleased to announce that “Water the Mud”, a chapbook of 11 poems exploring grace and compassion, is now available for purchase. These poems first took form this past summer when I collaborated with artist Nicole Brown to respond to a series of sermons about Jesus, the stories he told, and the people he interacted with. “Water the Mud” is available here. If you would like free shipping, you can purchase a copy of the book through Amazon or download it straight to your Kindle.

As a side note, this chapbook is not copyrighted, but rather it is released under a Creative Commons license, which means you, the reader, have the freedom to use these poems to inspire your own creative work, whether it be musical, visual, or another poem. The only requirement is to credit the original author. Isn’t that what art is about–sharing and creating rather than hording?

Fantine: A Poem

by Joel E. Jacobson

When Fantine falls
into the snow, incapable
of making herself
worthy of even the poorest
men, we pity her,
beg her not to sell
her teeth; then
we practically
kiss the feet
of Val Jean
when he swoops in
and snatches her
from the claws
of Javert.

When the harlot
falls before Jesus,
wipes away
the city muck
with her face,
we’ve already
judged and locked
her out–
and we already know
that Jesus
will forgive her
if we’ve been
reading along.

What we don’t know,
sitting at the dinner table
in awkward, interrupted
silence, is the aroma
of forgiveness, wafting
about her empty,
alabaster jar.


This is the final installment of the Storytellers project. Keep your eye out for the chapbook this fall!

In Stopping: A Poem

In Stopping

by Joel E. Jacobson

“When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period.” Leviticus 15:25

“She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.” Luke 8:44

“While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ he said. ‘Don’t bother the teacher anymore.’ Luke 8:49

In stopping to ask,
“Who touched me?”
a woman is healed,
a girl dies–
and both had faith.
I would easily
rush to the street
and beg for Jesus
to heal my dying child;
I would slice
through the crowd
just to brush up
against his cloak
and be okay
getting struck
by lightning
because either way
the bleeding stops.
But my prayers
would have ceased
years and years ago,
died with the hearts of men
who made sure to mention
all that was unclean,
all that was me.

In the face of laughter
Jesus heals the dead
and bleeding, though
I’ve only seen them
die. Determined
to win out
and be healed–
I’ve seen the faithful
and buried with the rest.

Me of little faith,
stuck in the middle
of the story,
the middle of the crowd
pressing in
on a busy Jesus.


“In Stopping” is part 9 of the Storytellers project.

Mosaic: A Poem


by Joel E. Jacobson

I am a wine glass,
melted down
gently blown
and etched
into a limited
edition of one.
Fill me
with the most
expensive wine
and throw me
against the wall.
Break me into
expensive dust
because I can’t
see God anyways.

I am a wall,
framed in
to look new,
to the eye
to the art
hanging from
drilled holes
and plastic
a sledge
in the middle
of my chest.
Rip down
my facade
bare my bones.
The builder
must have been
in putting me here.

When God is dead
to me, your cupped hands
bear me, a mosaic
of dust and shards
and nails soaked
in red wine, they
hold me
until I can stand,
until your hands
are full of holes.


“Mosaic” is part 8 of the Story tellers project.

What Comes of It: A Poem

What Comes of It–

by Joel E. Jacobson

“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal footman hold my coat, and snicker
And in short, I was afraid.”

from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”


Because 90 percent of me is drowning.
Because the remaining  ten percent bobs and gasps.
Because all of me worries–
like coarse sandpaper on a wood block
like zebra mussels anchored on a wood dock
like sour salt on a raw tongue–
when all I have to do is float in the current
like a lobster in warming water
or simply stand up and get out.
I am still what I–.


Over a hundred years, an oak tree
develops roots like a subway system
intertwined beneath city foundations.
Watered with change and pre-paid passes
civilization sprouts, scrapes intto the sky,
etches away the blue hues
and peels up fields like a worker
preparing an orange for lunch.

No oak can withstand the steel
stampede, the urban sprawl,
so it gets chopped from the top
down—an umbrella stripped to spire.
Chain the base. With the fire-power
of a big rig, rip it out. Don’t worry
about the treehouses or tire swings—
children need to grow up anyways.

Cut it down.
Is it, then,
still a tree?


Model Airplanes: caged in plastic molds
even a young child can hold
and crack apart, just to paste the halves
back together, differently.  The gobbed glue
and wrinkled decals beg for empathy
or pride and the entire thing is either a good
first try or a failure.  Whether it falls apart
or not (it happens over time: the paint chips,
the missiles fall off and sometimes a wing),
what comes of it—a dream or a man?


These pieces fit like painted
manikins and man-he-cants
filling wombs and elastic tombs
and entire tubes of sand-seconds
in between the bulbs of earth’s
hourglass. Maybe I can still muster fistfuls
of splintered hope, thread each one
into each sun, waiting for every
worry to become shallow and undone.


This is the seventh installment of the Storyteller project. Here are the other five: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Those familiar with my work will notice that this is not a new poem, but a major revision of an old one that needed (need?) work. Comments are always welcome!