Welcome to the first edition of Poetry Poker, our new weekly feature where someone, usually one of our staff or writers, plays Poetry Poker first, and you get to play along the comments.

Not familiar with Poetry Poker? Read our post that explains how it works and what the rules are. A simple overview is this:

The author is dealt five cards. They must create a poem using those five words. They can change the form of the word to fit the poem, like swim to swimming, but cannot change the word itself, like night to knight. No cards or words can be discarded or traded.

Okay, so here goes! Today’s five words are: Prize, Thrill, Joints, Freaks, and Recreation. Below is today’s poem. Create your own in the comments, or send it to us at [email protected].

The Driver

The cars line up at the starting line, engines revving.
There are lookouts, just in case the cops or someone else
gets wind of the fact that there is a race going on.
Some come race for the thrill, others for the prize.

That’s not why he is here. He’s not looking for cheap
recreation or the recognition of these few
so clueless in their young lives. He is here because
he cannot begin to think of being somewhere else.

The humidity here is not his friend. His joints ache, his
knuckles pop as he reaches for the shifter.
His hip throbs as he presses in the clutch, his ankle
aches as he pumps the throttle and the engine roars.

They call him many things. The old man, over the hill.
But they rarely say anything bad about his car.
The insults are more like terms of endearment
said as they look at him with sad faces.

This will be his last race. The doctor says he can’t
do it anymore, and he knows, running his hand
over his bald head, that it is true. He doesn’t tell
the other racers. They don’t need to know.

Everyone freaks out when they hear the word
cancer. So he doesn’t say it aloud. Looking through
the windshield, he sees the flag raised.
Suddenly he is dizzy, his vision blurs.

He hears the words, though. “Driver ready?”
He cannot answer. They come again.
“Driver? Driver?” Blurry vision becomes darkness.
From far away, he hears one last faint word:


This is our attempt. How about yours?

Would you like to be a guest poet on Unbound Northwest Poetry Poker? Send us an inquiry at [email protected].