An Iambic Pentameter Challenge

 Note:  Online universities was kind enough to name me in their top 50 female science bloggers list.  If you're interested, check out the rest of the list..  I think I'm the only creative writing blog listed though (big surprise there :-P)

Simon Larter emailed me a couple weeks ago to apologize for missing the Alternate Version Blogfest.  I won't rehash the conversation since Simon relates it already,  but the short version is that I ended up challenging him to write an iambic pentameter version of his scandalous No-Kiss Blogfest entry.

Well, Mr. Larter delivered (not that I doubted him), and I present his scandelous-flash-fiction-turned-poem here.  To really appreciate the awesomeness though, you should read the original version first.  


Cheaters Never Prosper (Iambic Pantameter Version)

She comes! I heard the hard-heeled steps afar,
In steady-thudded beats that promised pain.
The bolt flew back, the door was pulled ajar,
and there! Her silhouette in sight again.

Her scent slid sinuous across the cell,
her long hair loose, cascading down her back.
I gritted teeth and cursed my private hell,
and strained against my chains till muscles cracked.

“You wake,” she said. (Her voice was blurred by wine.)
Then: “Good,” she said, and walked with measured pace
toward my prison’d form. Her lips! Their line
was limned by light that slow-caressed her face.

“You have been well?” she asked. Amusèd voice.
Our lips were close, a hairsbreadth now apart.
I, well? As if she’d given me a choice.
My jaw began to ache—so too, my heart.

Her palm was cool and soft against my cheek.
Deft fingers traced a pattern on my thighs.
My breathing quicken’d, then, and I—too weak!—
Felt (painfully) an urgent need arise.

“Predictable, my darling.” Laughing taunt.
“You never could resist my touch.” She smiled.
She ran her tongue along my jaw—the want
rose swift and painful, terrible and wild.

Her hands, they moved, exquisite torture-touch—
I leaned my head against the cold stone wall.
The radiating warmth, skin-scent—too much!—
now nothing else existed: she was all.

Her face came close, her tongue flicked at my nose.
“So was she worth it?” This a whispered breath.
Her snaking arms around my back—and those
were worse than any fear-imagined death.

Full length against me, curvèd body pressed—
Her scalding closeness seared my aching skin.
No, never worth it! Silently confessed,
as burning lips grazed light along my chin.

My throat! It smoked from choking back the words.
I’m sorry! (Thought that raged behind my eyes.)
But then, a sudden break—a breath—I heard
(this as she turned away) her stifled cries.

I sagged against my bonds, my wrists flamed pain.
But this, a welcome respite from the guilt
that clawed my gut—reminder that I’d lain
with one not her, destroying all we’d built.

Her hard-heeled steps spiked stone—she strode away,
then paused. The torchlight flickered on her cheek,
in hollows of her neck, on tears that lay
twin-trackèd, glimm’ring as she turned to speak.

“Perhaps tomorrow you shall die,” she said,
and then was gone; the closed door killed the light.
And yes, the thought occurred to me that “dead”
was preferable to my current plight.

The guilt! It tore my gut and spiked my chest
with too-late tendrils of remorse—too late!—
and stinging shame that kept me from my rest.
With hot self-loathing now I cursed my fate.

In stifling dark I breathed her fading air,
and, shamed and bitter, cursed what I had wrought.
Now prisoned, starved, regret my only fare,
death was the only quick release I sought,

My love! Would that I’d not your love betrayed.
Now nought left for me but this bed I’ve made.


Pretty impressive huh?   As agreed upon in our challenge, I will be sending him a copy of The Graveyard Book.

A funny factoid -- Iambic pentameter has special significance for me.  My husband, astronomer and literary snob J. Blackburne, proposed to me in iambic pentameter.  Perhaps I will post the whole story sometime.

Another funny factoid -- the original version of the No Kiss story almost inspired a new research program on my part.  To see what I mean, check out the comment thread of the original post from January.


  1. The original is fantastic, but I think I like the iambic pentameter version even better. Simon continues to amaze...

  2. Thanks, Livia, for a fun challenge. I am, incidentally, still waiting for the NSF to fund that study. What? You know they would...

    You're a good sport, good lady. :)

  3. Oh. My. This post is amazing on many levels. Simon's poem is so lyrical and funny, and it's definitely the alternate version of the flash fiction. And you simply must post the story of that proposal. How fabulous is that? Lastly, congratulations on the auspicious blog listing!

  4. Simon, I enjoyed the original, but this one is amazing! All that hard work really paid off. Each line is so powerful, full of the physical sensations and mental anguish.

  5. Simon -- the poem was so worth it

    Tricia -- perhaps I'll post it on our first wedding anniversary, this August.

  6. Great job. Both were a pleasure to read, but I got a kick out of the poem.

    Oh, and Congratulations on your mention in the 50 Female Science Bloggers list.

  7. Wow. Now that's some iambic pentameter. Fun.

  8. Well DONE, Simon! Your talent, it knows few bounds. Thanks for posting this for all of us to appreciate, Livia :)

  9. Thank you all for your lovely comments, ladies. Glad the tiny bit of sweating I did over this produced something fun!

  10. Ha, very funny! Leave it to Simon to get himself into trouble online. Great challenge, Livia.

    And congrats for being chosen by Online Universities! What an honor!

  11. Congrats for being on that list!! I'm taking time off from medical school to write a novel, so your blog is very inspiring and comforting. Hurray to you for pursuing such diverse interests!!