Fragments on Time: Found Poetry in My Dashboard

I have nearly 50 drafts in my blog’s dashboard — waiting, forgotten, abandoned.

This week, I encouraged readers at the Daily Post, one of our blogs at, to sift through and revisit these unfinished posts in their dashboard. One of my suggestions to inspire creativity was to pull bits from different drafts and craft “found poetry” from this dashboard detritus.

So I’ve taken my own advice and pulled fragments from four previous drafts: two posts started this month, one begun earlier this year, and another in limbo from last spring. I was drawn to these particular drafts because they focus on time and place — and overlap in some ways.

My rules: I could pluck phrases from any draft and place them below, on any line, and within any section — but I couldn’t edit words, or the arrangement of words, within these phrases. I left capitalization untouched; I removed any final periods. I was free to repeat phrases I’d already used.

* * * * *

I’m sitting at an outdoor bistro

Thinking about now

I long for things of the past

in love with Amaro and Earlybird

contributing to instant nostalgia

I’ve been slowly falling for Los Angeles

bit by bit, trip by trip

over the past 15 years

my friend took me to breakfast

a Silverlake spot channeling the past

we talked about the ways we consume

remixing and recycling

fusing everything but nothing at once

I told her I was falling for LA

She said:

LA is whatever you want it to be

I’ve begun to understand

it is made up of many worlds

but ultimately a blank canvas

pure creation in a new place

where now happens

* * *

Instagram and anachronism

non-camera phone shots

where’s the unfolding narrative?

Why must these outliers and impostors

disrupt this collective timeline?

But I’m not saying I need to see

a picture of your lunch at 12:30

your dessert at 12:55

* * *

sifting through my Camera Roll

thousands of images not posted online

I hunt through my library

see the outtakes

and rejects of my days

the stuff I’d felt wasn’t good enough to share

yet these are the photos

unshared, unfiltered

that really tell my stories

I’ve caught myself, haven’t I?

slotting moments into a timeline that don’t belong

shaping chronology

I pluck out pictures, discard the rest

* * *

I’m sitting at an outdoor bistro

It feels close to midnight

yet the day is strong

my eyes falling

upon one of the legs of the Eiffel Tower

The leg has met the wall of a casino

an atmospheric canvas awash in blue

the first time I visited Las Vegas

I was twelve

The Mirage’s erupting volcano

Treasure Island’s pirate show

road trips in college

I first sensed what Vegas could be

not yet twenty-one

fueled on ecstasy tablets

inconspicuous swigs of vodka

I was there, but not there

I’ve returned many times since

Each visit

the city has felt different

almost new

It lets me shape it each time

I’m sitting at an outdoor bistro

drinking a cocktail, playing cards

stealing puffs from my husband’s cigarette

The bartender

tells me I have a young face

and asks for my ID

It feels odd, perhaps unnatural

to age in a place as timeless

as anachronistic as Vegas

night is masked as day

clocks nowhere to be found

But as I sit with my husband

I know time has passed

It was here that we’d met

just our third encounter

He was a traveler on holiday

I was the girl he’d met the week before

We didn’t know it then

this meeting would be the beginning

the first real moment


as physical and tangible

a place that stays intact

that exists in the timeline of our world

Some travelers avoid revisiting a city

for fear of reshaping their memory

I’ve held my favorite places

hostage in my mind

I recently returned to Spain

I’d found my way to Mirador de San Nicolas

all so beautiful

yet I couldn’t stop thinking of the Granada

I’d encountered years ago

I quietly sat there

mentally downloaded files

recalling the very moments

Years ago

synching those two selves

I decided to stop chasing a part of myself

let go of the memories

allowed the city, instead, to reshape me

* * *

I’m sitting at an outdoor bistro

there, but not there

still thinking about now


things of the past

Published by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

I am an editor at Longreads. For over a decade, I've worked on curation, editing, and storytelling projects across Automattic, including

47 thoughts on “Fragments on Time: Found Poetry in My Dashboard

  1. Beautiful, woven, evocative. I saw author Christos Tsiolkas speak here in Melbourne last night and he spoke of the books he read and devoured as a child. Christos reminded me that my childhood loves we’re books of poetry, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Taylor Coleridge my favourites. Last night I pinched myself to remember to read more poetry … Then I found you this morning.
    Thank you I love your words and images, I will return.

  2. In my childhood days I never took much to poetry, only now in my adulthood have I discovered the power of poetry and writing poetry. This is brilliant, I love the images it describes every word you write and every image created in the mind.

  3. Oh gosh. As a lover of found poetry (and also a blog post procrastinator — I currently have a few sitting in the Dashboard myself), this is an excellent idea. May even inspire me to actually POST one or two of those suckers.

  4. I really like this!!! This is a great idea, and I should look through my old sections and forgotten pieces and remnants of poems that have died, and do something creative with them. Thank you!

  5. Cheri, that’s beautiful. Not only is this so creative but this is also quite representative of our modern existence — fragmentary, disjointed, but yet there’s poetry in it. There’s a touch of TS Eliot (though his is more dark and sordid poetry) who combined images from our multi-hued everyday living to form a blurry whole.
    Brilliant idea.

  6. Very evocative and inspiring. The concept of how you wrote it is fascinating and the piece together renders images and memories from my own past and ties them to your images and words. sometimes fragments and moments tell the best stories and have the best imagery, what you fill in is more open.

  7. Wow, Cheri. I love what you’ve done here — the process and the brilliantly cohesive results. Beautifully witnessed, imagined and shot images, expressed in word and via Instagram-filtered and -framed photos. In short, inspiring! Thank you.

  8. I love this idea, it’s recyclable poetry and a tremendous tool for inspiring yourself with words that might have seemed old. I am definitely going to try this!

  9. These are really great! Not only is the idea cool, but the results are amazing! I can’t believe they were just sitting in your dashboard all that time.

    Courtney Hosny

  10. YES!! I thought I was the only one who always forgets to finish their writing; however, I had never seen someone crafting poetry out of them. I loved it! I will try to recover my drafts – It will be hard, though, since they’re only within my brain.

  11. You have no idea how many times I think about the unfinished draft. I love the notion of “found poetry” and what you did with it. I’ve been having inordinate trouble focusing on writing lately, leaving many thoughts incomplete. Looking forward to revisiting them and seeing how the fragments may be pieced together…

  12. Cool post!! Former aspiring screenwriter to creative, non-fiction writer into poet.

    While these may be pulled fragments, you’ve seemed to stitch these descriptive lines with great tempo and ease. Keep recycling those un seen words you’ve written.

  13. Oh, this is sooooo brilliant…love love love it. I love the idea. Love the way you have created it. Just love it all. I was writing one day and came to a block. I wandered around my room past my book shelves and saw a title then another and before long I was using random titles which fed the rest of my poetry.

  14. This is truly a Kaleidoscope made of real pieces of discarded drafts, bits and pieces of memory and moments, of cities and places, of fragments of time. A composition that need not make sense necessarily and yet it does. For me, it has meaning not just because of the incidental glimpses of stories it reveals but because it tells me even unnecessary discarded bits can be arranged to make something beautiful. Everything has meaning, even the lost and the rejected. 🙂

    1. Initially, when I had this idea, I didn’t expect for it to make sense, at least in a cohesive, satisfying way. But as I was piecing lines together — from posts that mused on very similar themes and ideas (obsessions of mine, really) — things just fell naturally into place. I’m happy with how it turned out — I think I’ll do more!

  15. Love this so much – as others have said, thank you for the inspiration. And I only have one draft blog post but perhaps I can pull from journals if that would work.

  16. I love the way your “cheat sheet” meshed to give birth to beautiful poetry! Very creative 🙂

  17. I love this post! I just wish I have as many drafts I can combine like you did with this post. I’d love to try my hand at this one day. I guess its time to write more drafts I can pick and choose from. =)

  18. For some reason I cannot think of a more beautiful thing than to enjoy sitting in a quiet outdoor cafe or coffeehouse. Beautiful pictures.

  19. I love this post! It’s such a wonderful idea, and everything about it – from the feature image to the thread of time to the sense of meander-over closure at the end – just fits so perfectly.

    It’s also a very revealing post, perhaps in the same way that it’s the discarded camera roll pictures that *really* tell your story.

    My new favourite post for sure!

  20. I love this idea, great poem! My problem is that I don’t have many drafts as I tend to go head long and try and finish something and delete whatever is unfinished….time to start keeping the drafts……

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