Today’s prompt invited me to look up the #1 pop song on my birthday and write a poem inspired by that song. I could also look up another significant date and use the song associated with that date instead. I tried my birthday, and then the day that my husband and I always celebrated as the day of our first kiss. I have to say that the first option won out. Poems I have written inspired by my love for my husband will have to wait. Especially since I am posting this in advance (courtesy the techno savvy of my friend Helen) because I am taking my kids to the Museum of Science and Industry for their birthdays today…their 23rd and 25th birthdays (kids never outgrow museums!). I want to give my husband and the poetry he inspires a bit more time.
The number one hit song on the day that I was born was…..”The Locomotion” by Little Eva.
I had an immediate association. Not with the song, specifically. With a train. Steve has taken to describing my typical M.O. as “the freight train”. It has to do with a very focused, linear way of acting. I get into a task-oriented mode when I’m trying to get something accomplished. I do not like to get side-tracked when I am operating like that. I like to streamline and simplify and do one thing after another until the whole bloody thing is finished. God help you if you get in my way. That’s what cow catchers are for. It can be an effective way of doing things. Steve, however, likes to be “light on his feet”, like a river, like a school of fish, shaped by movement and fluidity. There are advantages to that, too. Anyway, it’s one of our points of reference when discussing our differences and trying to achieve compromise.
I am learning a lot. The prompt for today is to write a “triolet”, which is an 8 line poem where lines 1, 4 & 7 are identical and lines 2 & 8 are identical. The rhyme scheme goes like this: ABaAabAB. Having never studied poetry, this is all new to me and fascinating to engage. What do you do with a structure? Play with it for a while, then take it apart and do something else, like with toy blocks? There’s no “right” way to play, is there? I think not. So I go ahead and see what happens.
I was thinking about the repetitive nature of this particular pattern, and it reminded me of a conversation I had with Steve on a recent neighborhood walk. We were talking about getting old, how older people spend their time until they die, the change in energy and the prelude to death. My husband was technically “working” the day before he died, although by that time, he was working from home at the dining room table, from a laptop equipped with Zoom Text that made each letter on the screen about 4 inches high. My father, in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, didn’t move or eat or do anything on his own. He eventually succumbed to pneumonia after he lost the ability to swallow food without aspirating it. My grandmother died in a nursing home rather uneventfully. She had lived with us for several years before moving into a place that could care for her more comprehensively. She spent her days watching TV in her room and would come to the dinner table and try to make conversation, often beginning with “They say….” My father always insisted she cite her sources. “Who says? Where did you hear that?”
Our concepts of dying are so complicated and irrational. What makes “sense” economically often offends morally. Questions, decisions, choices, preferences and emotions arise. What do we do with them? How do we communicate our wishes for life and death? To whom? I don’t have any definite answers. I hope I get to communicate what’s important to me to someone who is listening. I hope my views are respected. What that might look like, I cannot tell. Steve mentioned casually at breakfast that he’d like Schubert’s Octet played at his funeral. I asked him who he thought might be there. He couldn’t even say. I guess what matters is that I heard him when he said it.
Fun for the whole family! My sister intends to match me, poem for poem, in the comments section of each of my posts. Mind you, this is NOT a competition. I have to be very clear about that and remind myself that this is about playing with words, creative collaboration, cleaning my windshield of mud and fear and stuff that gets in the way of my recognition of the wonderful ideas that I, even I, have shining on the horizon. I remind myself of this several times a day because my older sister is brilliant and has always been better than me at everything. Of course, that’s entirely my own hangup. I admit it, and I’m old enough now to face it head on. Right? Right!
I am using a very inclusive definition of “poetry” here. In other words, I’ve never been a student of poetry, I don’t know form and rules, but as a singer, I like words and rhythm. As a visual person, I like icons and imagery. Any formation of symbols that produce an experience can be called poetry in my definition. Also, it’s understood that any poetry posted here is copyrighted. If it’s not original, I will site the source.
I am tickled that this event is starting on a Sunday. Such creative connotations! And on April Fool’s Day, just so that we don’t take our creativity too seriously. I self-published a book of Poems and Parables back in 1997. This was the first one:
God is a poem
Infinite in meaning
Economical in expression
Clothed in symbol and harmony
A breathing Word
Engaging all perception
Today’s prompt is “Carpe Diem”, with a reference to Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress.I have to admit that my brain first translated that Latin phrase as something like “Fish Gods”. You know, Carp Deities. ‘Fish gods’ sounds like ‘fish guts’. I was going down that path for a while. But then, I remembered a conversation I had at breakfast with Steve about childhood development. We have often referred to ourselves as 3 and 4 year olds. He’s 3, and I’m 4. I got a chart of early childhood characteristics at my last teacher training session, and we talked about how the descriptions fit us. I often feel like we’re trying to get back to those authentic ideas of ourselves and that maybe, eventually, we’ll become infants again and live as though we were not separate at all from the environment.
So all that musing is background. I began composing my first lines in the bathtub. Here’s what I penciled in my notebook when I dried off:
My three-year-old comes out to play
With ne’er a thought about the day,
For what is ‘think’ or ‘time’ or ‘how’?
The only thing is ‘this right now’.
My three-year-old, with eye and ear
Stays open’d wide to what is here.
Experience is all, you see.
That three-year-old’s inside of me.
Sniffing a Ponderosa pine in New Mexico. Steve told me it smells like vanilla. I had to find out. I agreed. (photo credit: Steve)