Items Found in Max’s Red Flowered Hippie Bag, August 11, 2018

by | Sarah Day 2 - Group A

Two bottles essential oil blend, ¾ used, myrrh and hyssop.
Lip gloss, grapefruit flavored in small tin.
Black wraparound sunglasses.
Her mother’s lace-lined handkerchief. wadded and stained.
Her son’s baby photo, elevated above her ex’s head like a trophy.
Beige telephone, landline, the cord wound around it.
Notebook, faux yellow leather in wrapper.
Embroidery needle and brown thread in frosted plastic case.
Bent-nose surgical scissors, one pair.
Pliers with red handle.
Hair clippers with 1/8-inch head installed.
Glyburide, multiple tabbed sheets, half used.
Xanax, 10mg. bottle, empty.
Bupropion, 300 mg. dosage, bottle empty.
Pashmina, red, gray, and black silk from Pakistan.
Legal papers, bound by an alligator clip.
Brown bi-fold wallet emptied of its contents.
Kay Ryan paperback, The Best of It

Thank you, Sarah, for all the great course material and feedback! I’ve been in a slump and am happy to have done a couple pieces and started others. Will be doing some fiction using these prompts.


  1. Sarah Freligh

    Koss, I’m so happy you riffed off that powerful flash I shared! It’s one of my very favorites from the last couple of years and I’m just brought to my knees by how that list of details, so carefully created, can convey a life, a conflict, a story.

    I’m getting that here with Max, too, with the objects you’ve chosen. There are those things that women typically carry around — lip gloss, for one, a notebook, a handkerchief, this one an heirloom. That it’s “wadded and stained” is so very significant, suggesting that it’s been used and recently and maybe for a good cry, or to wipe a kid’s nose or both. And then there are the startling things — the pliers with the red handle, the wallet emptied of content– and the things that are intensely personal– the baby photo of her son “elevated about her ex’s head like a trophy,” so good! That landline, like she yanked it out of the wall and fled. The legal papers.

    Together = a life.

    Keep going with this one. You’re onto something really terrific — character and situation and herstory/story.

    It’s been such a pleasure! I’m glad you’re going to keep using those prompts!

    • Koss Just Koss

      Thank you, Sarah. Am sitting on this as I wonder if some lines might need more texture, rephrasing, and how much to add. The meds give it away but need to be there. List poems, I find, are a great way to write grief. There is such obscenity to objects. Thanks again for the great workshop.

  2. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Koss, this list poem gutted me in all of the best ways. I’m am really moved that you return to Max as source. I think we’ve chatted about my James, close friend from childhood (we became closer as adults), also a writer. Murdered at 27 (much longer story there) but continues to provide material for me to explore in all shapes and forms. Your piece also suggests ‘what’s left behind.’ I’ve thought about this a lot of late. What ‘carbon stamp’ do I take up and how. As Sarah so eloquently mentions, I love the quirk and personalized take on much of your list. Yes, Max is kept alive through your creative collectives. Yes, Max is here.

    • Koss Just Koss

      Thank you, Robert. I’m so sorry James was murdered. How awful. Responded on Twitter. Thanks for all you do.

  3. Francine Witte

    Great list poem. Very evocative. I love how the title works to place us. And we really see this person by the details of the contents. Great job.

  4. Anita Brienza

    Koss, this piece is so evocative. What I like best about it is how much more I want to know about… well, about everything. Loved reading your work.

    • Koss Just Koss

      Thank you, Anita, for reading and commenting. I have published a lot about her, so if you want to know more, there are links to the pieces on my site: Big content warning. Was nice workshopping with you and really enjoyed your writing!

  5. Jayne Martin

    I read this piece twice and feel like I could read it again. So drawn in not only by what’s said, but even more by what is not said.
    “Notebook, faux yellow leather in wrapper.” I might have related to this one just a little too much. 🙂 Stunning, powerful work. I’m grateful we were placed in the same group.

    • Koss Just Koss

      Thank you, Jayne. I’m so glad it resonated with you. I’m so happy we were in the same group too. You’re work is always inspiring. 🙂

  6. Andrea Marcusa

    I found this really intriguing, especially when I looked up the drugs. A diabetic undergoing or who has undergone a major depressive disorder. I also looked up the date but there was no significant event that occurred on that day in history, so this stumped me in the title. Anyway, you have totally hooked me on this story. I want to learn more, and I think that with a few more revisions, this will be an amazing piece. Keep going on this!

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