Day Three: The Cleaving Smell of Beauty’s Ambition

This is the first Sunday of the of the month, and there is no A to Z on Sundays, so today’s photo-challenge is a little different. I’ll be using the photos I took for Ambition and Beauty to create visual poems guided by a homograph.


Cleave is an enticing word because it is both a homograph and a janus word. Cleave can mean to adhere, stick, or cling to, and be faithful. It can also mean to split or divide, to cut, sever, or to penetrate or pass through.

Cleaved to Ever Rising Ambition by Maria L. Berg 2022

The Prompts


Today we have a form prompt. The challenge is to write a glosa, a new form to me. Because I’ve been studying Dylan Thomas for my Portable Poetry MFA, I chose a quatrain from “On a Wedding Anniversary.” This poem, and this final stanza especially, express both meanings of “cleave.”

Poem A Day

Today’s prompt is to write a smell poem.

The Poem

The Cleaving Smell of Beauty’s Ambition

Too late in the wrong rain
They come together whom their love parted:
The windows pour into their heart
And the doors burn in their brain.

~Dylan Thomas

Debarking holding hands
in a warm shower heavy
with hibiscus and gardenia
days bright as birds of paradise
they so quickly forgot
while finding daily worth
tarnished and scuffed by the grind
Their fingers and palms had fit
a comforting realization
too late in the wrong rain

It isn’t that they never agree
but perhaps that they are too alike
their campfires permeate
explosive summer nights
heat lightning sparks over
hot heads and sharp tongues
like thorns hidden in blades of grass
After storms, swarms, and scourges,
blame bandied and volleyed back-biting,
they come together whom their love parted

Petrichor signals the turn
along with dripping orange deciduous
skin dries and cracks as do voices
lips split easily as do all brittle husks
empty and lifeless leftovers
mildew seeps into spaces
like an intruder hiding in a closet
They close the doors and turn away
searching for sunlight through filthy panes
the windows pour into their heart

Odors accumulate
in a stuffy house
closed off from dreams
to snuff out those hard feelings
before they attack again
The ghost’s cigars continue
to surprise the wrinkled senses
each flavor of smoke
still yells fire
and the doors burn in their brain

Beauty’s Fool by Maria L. Berg 2022