Weekly Prompt: “We Mustn’t ____ Anymore”

First things first: a shout out to Oliver de la Paz, who unwittingly provided the impetus for this week’s prompt.  Mr. de la Paz, we love what you write!

I’ve been spending a lot of time on Twitter recently in order to keep up with the LR community and last week, I happened to read one of Mr. de la Paz’s Tweets that said:

Oliver_delaPaz mustn’t put two spaces after periods anymore. Oops. Old habits die hard.
11:37 PM Nov 13th from web

The content of the Tweet registered briefly with me (I spent a lot of time this summer having to retrain myself to use one space after periods because my job involved cover copy work), but as the week wore on, I found that the rhythm of that first sentence had, in a strange way, worked itself into my head.  “We mustn’t ____ anymore,” I thought as I washed the dinner dishes.  “We mustn’t_____anymore,” chugged the buses rolling past my apartment on their morning routes.  “We mustn’t ______anymore,” wheezed the teakettle as I brewed my afternoon cup. 

Being haunted by a Tweet (okay, a variation on a phrase from a Tweet) is no easy thing.  It twists itself into your every thought and action, pokes at you until your very footsteps are beating out “We mustn’t_____anymore,” and you feel you must do something with it.  Hence, this week’s prompt.  To Mr. de la Paz: apologies for hijacking your internet musings.  No irreverence was intended. Twitter made me do it!

* * *

This exercise takes its form from both the phrase “We mustn’t ______ anymore” and from Kenneth Koch’s classic poetry exercise for children, in which every line begins with the words “I Wish.”

Write a list poem composed of sentences that begin with “We mustn’t . . . ” and that end with ” . . . anymore.”

From my own attempt:

We Mustn’t Take Arms Anymore
after a Tweet by Oliver de la Paz

we mustn’t take arms anymore
we mustn’t eat fish anymore
we mustn’t go rolling green plastic
lettuce heads down grocery aisles
anymore we mustn’t darn socks
anymore we mustn’t kiss dogs anymore
we mustn’t hold wet soda bottles
against our cheeks to feel them sweat
anymore we mustn’t blow fuses
anymore we mustn’t watch stars
anymore we mustn’t draw sticky
slick ponchos above our heads anymore
we mustn’t sigh anymore we mustn’t
blink anymore we mustn’t shout names –
the city won’t sleep anymore

* * *

If you attempt this exercise, please consider commenting with an excerpt (or the entirety!) of your results.  We would love to see what different directions you’ve taken.  Many thanks to Oliver de la Paz for inspiring us with his wordplay (and for allowing us to write about it in this post). If you’re not already following him, please go give him some love on Twitter.  Perhaps you, too, will find yourself spending a whole week haunted by one of his Tweets.

2 thoughts on “Weekly Prompt: “We Mustn’t ____ Anymore”

  1. here’s a stab at the prompt!!
    We musn’t wonder anymore
    what might have been
    might have happened if
    we had just stepped to the right
    or paused and turned to the left
    checked yes, instead of no
    waited for the green
    seen the approaching car
    the bedroom door ajar
    let go of the one on the right
    taken hold of the one on the left
    awakened just a bit earlier
    or understood the meaning of love
    as gifting
    lifting our eyes from the ground
    to the sky
    we musn’t wonder anymore
    but live fully
    in this time EndFragment

  2. Tom, thank you so much for sharing this with us! I love the poem’s attention to nuance, how a little movement right or left could change the speaker’s circumstances in an instant, and was really struck by those lovely end rhymes in line 9/10 (“car”/”ajar”) and how they sweep us neatly from street level to the intimate domestic space.

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