NaPoWriMo Day 25: Worth a Thousand Words

If a picture is worth a thousand words, why start by staring at a blank piece of paper? Let’s find a good photo and WRITE WORDS NOW.

Writing from an image. We live in an age of digital cameras in our pockets, Pinterest, and Instagram. There is an extraordinary wealth of high-quality photographic images available to spark our imagination. Just take a look at what pops up when you search the Internet for “black and white photos,” “National Geographic photos,” or “historic photos.” Find an image that grabs you and write about it. Or use an old family photograph. Sit with the photo for a minute and just list a bunch of words and phrases that come to mind. Do this with a few photos before deciding which one you will use for your poem. The most evocative one may not have been your first choice. Describe the photo, tell us what is going on in it, or use it as a jumping off point for something completely different. Maybe your poem is about everything that is not in the picture. You decide.

Here’s my photo-inspired poem:

We Cater to White Trade Only

commissioned the sign,
placed it in the window
of the smart little
ground-floor office,
just beyond the stripes
of Venetian blinds
so that, at closing time,
lights out, blinds closed
with a twist, door locked
with the tinkle
of a tiny bell, there
would be no

placed the order,
considered “Whites Only,”
decided to spring
for the extra letters.
Someone handled
the samples,
chose the one
with the graceful bracket,
disappointed perhaps,
that a sign like this
was needed,
but determined
that if it was,
it would be
dispatched with style.

claimed the sign,
when notified
that it was ready,
unwrapped it
from the stiff
brown paper.
Someone assented,
produced bills,
gave thanks.
Someone tucked the sign
under one arm
and walked, dignified,
down Main Street,
past the courthouse,
the green grocer,
the hardware,
the florist.

opened the little
tinkling door,
twisted up the blinds.
Someone placed
the sign in the window,
smiled at passersby,
stood back to check
that it was straight.
Someone nodded once,
with approval,
pursed her lips,
brushed dust
from the palms
of her hands.

sat down at her
cold metal desk,
in a squeaking swivel chair,
and began the work
of the law,
of insuring risk,
of assessing values,
of placing orders,
of making deliveries,
of writing copy,
of catering to trade.

Someone thought,
well then, that’s done.