Today’s prompt is to make a “Personal Universal Deck,” and then to write a poem using it. The idea of the “Personal Universal Deck” originated with the poet and playwright Michael McClure, who gave the project of creating such decks to his students in a 1976 lecture at Naropa University. Basically, you will need 50 index cards or small pieces of paper, and on them, you will write 100 words (one on the front and one on the back of each card/paper) using the rules found here. The rules to make a personal deck are-

  • The words exemplify past, present and (ideally) future, and must sound good together, even beautiful, reflecting good and bad sides.
  • We can make up a word or two if we have feelings that current words can’t express.
  • Use concrete words, root words, no plural words, reduce words to their most concrete, original, basic grammatical structure, and Use specific words, not categories. Beef instead of meat. Lily instead of flower.
  • Divide 80 of the 100 words evenly among SIGHT, SOUND, TASTE, TOUCH AND SMELL, sixteen each.
  • Use free association to determine the words.
  • Use ten words of movement. Again, no “ing” words.
  • One or two words will be parts of the body, our own or someone else’s.
  • Include some words for personal heroes or SHEroes, places in the universe, invented words, times of night or day, symbolic signs like astrological signs, totemic animals, birds and plants and only one abstraction.
  • Once the deck is ready, shuffle it a few times, select a card or two, and use them as the basis for a new poem.

My poem for today is – Moment of truth. My personal deck is below the poem. I found the entire exercise of making the deck a meditative experience. You can try it out even if you don’t intend writing poetry.


Break of dawn

the lace curtain’s drawn

French windows slid open- the sweet smell of grass

Music turned on-  the sound of the bass

Yoga mat unfolded

Knees folded

Eyes closed, hands joined together-

 Anjali mudra*, my mind I need to tether

The distant call of the cuckoo bird, the chirping of sparrows

“Be aware of every breath you take. Let go of your sorrows.”

 The notes of the piano

 Smoothens the grooves on my forehead – the harp and the cello

Sound of water, the sea-


Bouncing curls

The girls

“Now repeat the mantra,” Juliana** coos.“ I am exactly where I need to be.

Today is a beautiful day of opportunity.”

The morning breeze- I feel it on my eyelids

And my nape; I breathe; the scent of  kids

Works like therapy; does magic for my soul

I don’t understand why it makes me feel whole

“You like my unwashed hair, Ma; Ew!” the little one shakes her head

“It smells like barbecue,” the older one retorts and heads to bed

“I am exactly where I need to be,” I hear the voice inside say

Head bent, gratitude, smiles, I open my eyes to a golden ray

Burning incense, bell ringing

 Jasmine, chanting

Hands and legs unfold

Mat rolled


‘Nothing’s amiss.’

P.S. The words in italics represent thoughts

*Anjali Mudra – when hands are joined together in a Namaste

**Juliana – the lady from Boho beautiful who does lovely meditation videos

Personal Deck

Sight                      Sound                                   Taste                     Touch                                    Smell

Grass                     cuckoo                                  Mango                  Satin gowns                      Lemongrass

Spider lilies         sparrows                             choc cake            Muslin                                  Sandalwood

Blue skies            scratching                            Cookies                                petals                                    camphor

Fluffy clouds      Piano                                     Apples                  silk sheets                           burning leaves

Fallen leaves      dried leaves                        Pickles                moisturized skin                 jasmine

Sun’s rays            Drum beats                        Tamarind             pebble                                  daughter’s head

Husband’s smile   children’slaughter       lamb chops         marble                                  Yardley

Daughter’s curls   dad’s voice                       pak bread           soft hair                               cinnamon

Wild flowers         waves                                 salt                         sun-dried clothes             sea

Hills                          birdsong                            fresh air               hot food                              eucalyptus

Valleys                  pop of the bottle             wine                      ice-cold water                   coffee

Stone walls         chocolate wrapper          fried fish              warm water                       barbecue

Creepers             tearing paper                     kebabs               throws                                    wet mud

Fresh veges        typewriter                         corn                        leather                                 cut grass

Lit candles           bells                                       prawn chutney  wool                                     brown paper

Yellow                   rain                                        liver                       hubby’s hands                  washed clothes

Movement – walk, glide, stride, jog, skate, waltz, exercise, yoga, meditate, stir

Parts of body – eyes, legs

Abstraction – honesty, courage, faith, empathy

Time of day – dawn        Personal Heroes-  patriots, fun, disciplined, hard work

Astrological sign – twins All Rights Reserved.

Posted by:Smitha V

A banker by profession, a blogger by choice, a poet by accident, and an artist at heart. Imperfectly perfect - that's me. Welcome to my world!

11 replies on “NaPoWriMo Day 3 : Moment of truth

      1. i had the hardest time choosing words.. especially because they said they had to be concrete nouns. Finally on the set that wasn’t sensory I cheated and used some none-concrete ones. I like your list better than mine.

        Liked by 1 person

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