JUNE: the Wordle Challenge

I started this month with the aim of studying water words. I planned to re-read The Odyssey and then read Alice Oswald’s Nobody. And I did that, but a few days into the month Scott suggested a fun challenge involving a new morning habit: Wordle. So I decided to do that too. But, even as I did think about water, I spent much more time on the wordles, so I decided to make the focus of June’s monthly challenge the wordles, and carry June’s water words over into July.

Wordle Challenge

All entries tagged with wordle challenge

Here is my introduction to the challenge on june 4:

After our run, walking Delia the dog, Scott and I talked about Wordle, which I just recently started playing. I told him about my morning routine: a quick look at Facebook, then re-memorize a few poems, read the poem of the day at 3 poetry sites, then wordle. He suggested I try a new experiment: write a poem every day for a month inspired by the wordle that day:

The number of lines = the number of tries I have to make
Each line must include the word that I guessed
possible bonus = the theme of the poem is the correct word

log entry for 4 june 2023

Here are the words:


a few thoughts/assessments

I wasn’t strict or exact with the rules, but used them as a starting point. I really enjoyed this challenge and am pleased with several of the poems and wanderings that happened. Towards the end of the month, the experiment got a little stale and forced. Was a month too long?

wordle “poems” / experiments

1 — one word per line of poem

4 tries: farce blame beads beast

What a farce 
to blame the sun
for the beads on your brow
you, beast, were born to sweat.

2 — one word per line

5 tries, trend/plane/neigh/skein/ENNUI

The Horse Girls
on the plane between child and young adult
wild neigh and reserved whinny
they skein obsessions
out of edgy ennui

3 — looser form

3 tries / wrong place SCOUT

I forgot about the dark 
bird I saw rooting 
in the hydrangeas looking 
like it landed in the wrong 
place until today 
when I learned 
about the purple martin scout
and decided that that was what it was.

a new bird! the purple martin scout

4 — made the winning word the title of the poem

5 tries: tough/wheat/haste/hated/hater


Middle-aged, it’s tough to watch
wheat gently waving in the wind
without haste and not want
to slow down yourself
but as a kid I hated anything slow —
snails, sermons, that quiet time right after lunch
when you were supposed to be still
on your cot. Wedged between other writhing bodies
all of us desperate to be done with this dark room
we felt the dripping of each second
and despised it.

5 — the words conjure up childhood memories

5 tries: reach waist pansy salsa balsa

At the edge of the garden
my waist brushes against the tall grass
as a yellow pansy stares with its sad purple eyes.
Through the kitchen window, I see my sister cutting jalapenos for a salsa
my mom improvising popsicle sticks from leftover balsa wood

memories conjured: one of my older sister making a giant vat of salsa for a work party, forgetting to wear gloves, her hands aching from jalapeno seeds for days (specific) + my mom’s garden and her love of pansies — at least, I think she loved pansies; she seemed to love all flowers (general)

6 — find the word in a poem by another poet, include the line

4 tries: bread orbit grubs crumb

Each face in the street is a slice of bread (W.S. Merwin)
a previously undiscovered moon orbiting a planet (dear, beloved/ sumita chakraborty)
grubs without a voice (millennium, six songs/ marilyn chin)
the crumbs of shadow (Sylvia Plath), the crumbling of elemental rust (Emily Dickinson

7 — made the winning word the title of the poem

5 tries: mouth/ready/blank/gnaws/again

empty, again

your mouth may be
ready but your mind
is blank. A hunger
for words gnaws at your throat.

8 — fun wordplay

3 tries: wrist/found/guard

The guard found a wrist bone buried in the courtyard of the hospital.

the twist of a wrist
a found sound
a guard in the yard

a wrist or a fist
a found pound
cards with the guards

a listless wrist
found near town
a disregarding guard

through mist, a wrist
found in the ground
a scarred guard

the wrist of a fish doesn’t exist
what’s found in a pound is of no great renown
the guard was a bard who only ate lard 

cease and desist
safe and sound
hard to handle

9 — limericks

3 tries: first/ drown/ wrong

There was an old lady on first
whose cheesecake was always the worst
she’d bake it so long
that the texture was wrong
and all of the berries would burst

There was an old lady on first
who always believed she was cursed
convinced she would drown
at the hands of a clown
she wandered the streets in a hearse

The lady on first was so cruel
she drowned all her cats in the pool
her heart, it was wrong
it sang a bad song
and tasted like boarding school gruel

10 — fun rhymes

4 tries: fiend / grunt / plunk / clunk

a fiend
a grunt
a loud ker-plunk
the clunkity-clunk of feelings sunk

11 — looser form containing all the words

4 tries: flash / waxes / apron / STRAP

a flash of white
the moon grows and shrinks
waxes and wanes 
all in an instant 
as an apron of clouds 
travels across the sky
sometimes the clouds appear as soft cover
and sometimes they seem to conceal and subdue,
each thick layer of vapor a strap 
securing the moon to the sky

revision, 18 june 2023

A flash of white 
grows and shrinks
waxes and wanes  
all in an instant 
as an apron of dark clouds 
travels across.

Sometimes the clouds offer soft cover
and sometimes they conceal and subdue
each thick layer of vapor a strap 
securing the moon to the sky

12 — the wordle words offer an invitation to wander and wonder

5 tries: wrest / cribs / spank / souls / SHYLY


from Lucky Day Still/ David Rivard
Lucky day still spent wrestling the private problems
and obsessions encountered first in your youth
but played out now within the spectacle of public aging
(tho, strangely, as you age you feel less & less seen
by the young, a citizen active in frequencies of light waves
increasingly invisible—not even boring to 15-year-olds).


MTV Cribs — this is where the magic happens….
crib sheet
cribbage wars
(verb) to confine


spanking new

Knot is a tangle, a problem that needs
unraveling. Not is the thing that isn’t / doesn’t /

wouldn’t. Knot a securing, a way of holding on.
Not security’s antithesis—a refusal to hold

or to be held. Lover’s knot / not lovers / all
for naught. Knotty pine paint paddles broken

in a splintered rage when spanking the non-compliant
child. Not I, said the spy. (Knot eye.) Not the eye

skimming smoothly up the trunk into blue sky,
but a knot eye, a visual paradox, a trompe l’oeil.


Formed in trunks where branches used to be,
or where the trunk’s growth has choked off

the smaller, lower branches in a tree. Each knot
the mark of a tightening tourniquet surrounding

a phantom limb. Each knot a scar, a toughening
over to cauterize loss, seal the body shut so it doesn’t

bleed out in the snow. In a concentration camp
in Minidoka, Idaho, wood artist George Nakashima

learned to burnish the souls of trees through their scars:
their knots, their holes, their cracks, their broken histories


All Souls Day
eyes are (not) the window to our Souls

from When Great Trees Fall/ Maya Angelou

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance, fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of
dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.


the way into the words
appears —

the problem of finitude (wrestling with death)
constrained in the awareness of impending non-existence (cribbed)
the sharp shock of what used to be (spank)
but is no more (when great souls die)

13 — description of the morning, stretching to connect these strange words

6 tries (with a hint from FWA): chirp / doubt / smoke / flank / wagon / KAZOO

In the morning

when the birds chirp
doubt goes up in smoke
delight outflanks grief
and regret hitches a wagon ride
out of town.
Only the faint buzz of his kazoo lingers
then joins in the cardinal chorus.

13 — inspired by some words from Alice Oswald

3 tries: 

water / inert / frost

a winter morning

water inert
frosted glass
slicked up streets
endless and empty 

water inert on morning window: frost

a description by Alice Oswald in her reading of “A Short Story of Falling” that I listened to this morning as I memorized her beautiful poem:

What I love about water is that it spends its whole time falling. It’s always, apparently, trying to find the lowest place possible, and when it finds the lowest place possible, it lies there wide awake. 

Alice Oswald, introducing her poem “A Short Story of Falling”

Water is never inert
always falling searching
for somewhere else to be
even in rest 
as frost on winter’s window
it watches waits wants 
to find the floor

14 — learning more about the words

3 tries: front / brine / crane




a: the principal front of a building
b: a decorated pediment over a portico or window


an illustration preceding and usually facing the title page of a book or magazine


Cliché/ V. Penelope Pelizzon

Its back and forth, ad nauseum,
ought to make the sea a bore. But walks along the shore
cure me. Salt wind’s the best solution for
dissolving my ennui in,
along with these protean
sadnesses that sometimes swim
as comb-jelly
a glass or two of wine below my surface.
Some regrets
won’t untangle. Others loosen as I watch the waves
spreading their torn nets
of foam along the sand
to dry. I walk and walk and walk and walk, letting their haul
absorb me. One seal’s hull
scuttled to bone staves
gulls scream
wheeling above. And here… small, diabolical,
a skate’s egg case,
its horned purse nested on pods of bladderwort
that still squirt
BRINE by the eyeful. Some oily slabs of whale skin, or
—no, just an
edge of tire
flensed from a commoner leviathan.
Everywhere, plastic nurdles gleam
like pearls or caviar
for the avian gourmand
and bits of sponge dab the wounded wrack-line,
dried to froths of air
smelling of iodine.
Hours blow off down the beach like spindrift,
leaving me with an immense
less-solipsistic sense
of ruin, and, as if
it’s a gift, assurance
of ruin’s recurrence.


The Crane Wife” parts 1, 2, and 3 from the Decemberists + the Japanese fable about the crane wife

15 — fun with Emily Dickinson

6 failed tries: slant / dates / waste/ haste / paste / baste

Even though I failed the challenge, I decided to do something with words: find connections to Emily Dickinson!

slant: Tell all the truth but tell it Slant

dates: I do not know the date of mine/ It feels so old a pain

waste: Just Infinites of Nought/As far as it could see/So looked the face I looked upon/ So looked itself on Me (Like Eyes That Looked on Wastes)

haste: We slowly drove—He knew no haste (Because I could not stop for Death)

paste: We play at Paste/ Till qualified, for pearl (We play at paste)

baste and taste: 
Now You Too Can Bake Like Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson: A Poet in the Kitchen

16 — stretching for inspiration

5 tries: heart / spent / edict / comet / COVET

heart racing
limbs spent
an edict from body:
stop! rest!

Lost in the dream of motion — fuzzy head glowing arms
I become comet and glide across the watery sky.

a synonym of covet is crave:

An ear worm from last night — nostalgia for the 80s and childhood.

17 — rambling

4 tries: handy / drain / brand / grand

a refreshing shandy
the pro cyclist Indurain
Rembrandt teeth whitening (brand)
Grand Old Days — the start of summer in St. Paul

She defeated him handily.

Yesterday I came across Annie Proloux’s book, Fen, Bog, and Swamp, and I’m certain that she disagrees with the phrase/metaphor, drain the swamp. 

Mostly I don’t care, but I have 2 brands that I especially like. For swimming, TYR, and for running, Saucony. I used to mispronounce both of them. It’s tear (cry) not tire, and sock-a-knee not something that rhymes with Marconi.

Before I got into watching pro cycling or running and before my vision made it almost impossible to track the ball, I loved watching Grand Slam tennis. My favorite was always Wimbledon — Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles, Steffi Graf, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, and Roger Federer.

handy dandy notebook
down the drain
brand spanking new
you’re a grand old flag, you’re a high flying flag

Somewhere along the way, what is marketed as handy and convenient is not always user-friendly.

drain, a sewer, a causeway, a sluice

I hate shopping at Target. Endless aisles, filled with only 1 or 2 brands. The illusion of choice.

In 2008, we almost moved to Grand Rapids, MI. We had already picked out a house to rent, almost signed a lease, told neighbors we were leaving. Then I was told I might be able to have a full-time position at the U. Scott and I walked along Lake Michigan and had a gut-wrenching talk. I decided to turn down a guaranteed job for the possibility of a preferable one.

18 — and even more wandering

5 tries: bench / prose / lower / gored / rodeo

In her dream there’s always a bench.
Often the benches I run by have small plaques on them, dedicated to some lost loved one. I hope my family does this for me.

They shut me up in Prose/ Emily Dickinson

They shut me up in Prose –
As when a little Girl
They put me in the Closet –
Because they liked me “still” –

Still! Could themself have peeped –
And seen my Brain – go round –
They might as wise have lodged a Bird
For Treason – in the Pound –

Himself has but to will
And easy as a Star
Look down opon Captivity –
And laugh – No more have I –


maggie and millie and molly and may / e.e. cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

A few days ago, I read the book in The Odyssey titled, “Bloodshed.” Very gory. So many spears and arrows and swords and bloody, gored bodies.

I had probably heard the phrase before, but my first memory of this isn’t your first rodeo is from my physical therapist describing how my kneecap has probably slid out of its groove many times before without me fully realizing it.

19 — more poems containing the wordle words

5 tries: 


A Primer of the Daily Round/ Howard Nemerov

A peels an apple, while B kneels to God,
C telephones to D, who has a hand
On E’s knee, F coughs, G turns up the sod
For H’s grave, I do not understand
But J is bringing one clay pigeon down
While K brings down a nightstick on L’s head,
And M takes mustard, N drives to town,
O goes to bed with P, and Q drops dead,
R lies to S, but happens to be heard
By T, who tells U not to fire V
For having to give W the word
That X is now deceiving Y with Z,
Who happens, just now to remember A
Peeling an apple somewhere far away.

Left-handed Sugar/ Jane Hirshfield

In nature, molecules are chiral—they turn in one direction or the other. Naturally then, someone wondered: might sugar, built to mirror itself, be sweet, but pass through the body unnoticed? A dieters’ gold mine. I don’t know why the experiment failed, or how. I think of the loneliness of that man-made substance, like a ghost in a ‘50s movie you could pass your hand through, or some suitor always rejected despite the sparkle of his cubic zirconia ring. Yet this sugar is real, and somewhere exists. It looks for a left-handed tongue.

new word: chiral — mirrors but can’t be super-imposed

from The Enkindled Spring/ D.H. Lawrence

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

Repulsive Theory / Kay Ryan

Little has been made
of the soft, skirting action
of magnets reversed,
while much has been
made of attraction.
But is it not this pillowy
principle of repulsion
that produces the
doily edges of oceans
or the arabesques of thought?
And do these cutout coasts
and incurved rhetorical beaches
not baffle the onslaught
of the sea or objectionable people
and give private life
what small protection it’s got?
Praise then the oiled motions
of avoidance, the pearly
convolutions of all that
slides off or takes a
wide berth; praise every
eddying vacancy of Earth,
all the dimpled depths
of pooling space, the whole
swirl set up by fending-off—
extending far beyond the personal,
I’m convinced—
immense and good
in a cosmological sense:
unpressing us against
each other, lending
the necessary never
to never-ending.

Passage / Barbara Guest

for John Coltrane

after all
are syllables just
and you put them
in their place
a painter using his stroke
so the spot
where the article
an umbrella
a knife
we could find
in its most intricate
slashed as it was with color
called “being”
or even “it”


For the moment just
when the syllables
out of their webs float

We were just
beginning to hear
like a crane hoisted into
the fine thin air
that had a little ache (or soft crackle)

golden staffed edge of
quick Mercury
the scale runner


C’est juste
your umbrella colorings

dense as telephone
humming down the line

Red plumaged birds
not so natural
complicated wings

Sweet difficult passages
on your throats
there just there
caterpillar edging
to moth

20 — and even more wandering

3 tries: twist treat TRACT

twist & turn
tapioca treat
tiresome tract

I can’t remember how often she did it, but my mom made tapioca pudding for dessert when I was a kid. She also made chocolate pudding from scratch and homemade hot fudge sundaes. We had dessert almost every night. Why?

terrible twist
traitorous treaty
tract take over

The Mississippi River Gorge has a troubled history of stolen land, illegal treaties, and destruction of sacred islands. The Falls Initiative is trying to offer some healing.