Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Finding Yourself in Someone Else's Poem

thru the window green

This morning I sat down with The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry, and began reading the chapter on families.

I had no intentions of taking up the writing challenge.

Then I began reading a poem by Li-Young Lee, called "The Gift." One stanza in, I knew that a poem had found me, despite my refusal to engage.

So I put Li-Young's poem (and my curiosity) aside before finishing, and wrote this poem in response. The end of Li-Young's poem actually answered my question to him in my own poem, so I've included it as an afterward.

Li-Young Lee's Metal Splinter

Your father enters the poem
storying past
the metal splinter
in your palm.

I set your paternity, and the poem,
to reach back
for my mother
and try to remember

what kind of day it was
when I played by
the barn where I have heard
that my own father
raised pigs
(I do not remember this).

And what kind of day it was
when I found the barn,
door open,

and tried to pluck silver
lines from silver webs
then tendered my hand
on noiseless silvered wood

until my palms
were rife
with the evidence
of my trying,

and mother
spent the night
with a silver tweezer,
counting as she went...
one hundred—

a ritual for my
tears. And now
I wonder,
Li-Young, did you cry,
and who was in the story,
and how many times
have you counted it since,
to forget, and to

Afterward, from Li-Young Lee's "The Gift"

And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
When he's given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

Post in honor of One Shot Wednesday.

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Blogger David Rupert said...

I find myself in poems, in stories, in Jesus words, in the written history scoundrels in history and the seekers around the world. It's what makes reading so much fun.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Kelly Sauer said...

ha ha - you really need to *decide* to do this sometime. then maybe you'd get out of it... ;-)

8:45 AM  
Blogger Solveig said...

This was powerful. Yes, we find ourselves in other people's poetry. I suppose that's what brings us back. But the message in your poem--along with his "afterward"--touched me to the core. As a good poem should, it lingers. Thank you.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Maureen said...

Your poem touches me deeply. What a vivid image you've created of the "evidence" of you trying to reach the silver webs, and the patience required to remove so many slivers.

I have several collections of Lee's poetry, including The City in Which I Love You and Behind My Eyes. He's a wonderful poet.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Kathleen Overby said...

...like strong black tea-liquid courage words.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Brian Miller said...

ha. i love the perspective on this fromteh writers vantage and in the deciding the direction and where that leaves our characters...

9:16 PM  
Blogger M.L. Gallagher said...

Beautiful. Stunningly beautiful.

10:50 PM  
OpenID arspoetica said...

this really was an interesting perspective, from reader to writer and back again... and still intensely personal on all levels. bravo.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Claudia said...

..to forget and to remember...wow...i'm speechless...loved it, really loved it

11:02 AM  
Blogger Joanne said...

"and tried to pluck silver
lines from silver webs
then tendered my hand
on noiseless silvered wood"

My fav lines. I felt there. The afterward brought tears. Thanks for sharing of yourself and him.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Steve Isaak said...

Good read, good flow.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Beachanny said...

What a surprise to read your words and see the thread lead to your barn, to your mom and dad and feel the anguish. This was beautiful.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Abby said...

'until my palms
were rife
with the evidence
of my trying,'

this was the part that hit me hardest and deepest...though i loved it all...and the afterward from 'the Gift'...quite profound, I'd say.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Shashi said...


These is very powerful words and I enjoyed it a lot. It touched me inside and could relate to it very much.. emotionally...

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
Twitter @VerseEveryDay

4:57 AM  
Anonymous Cheryl Smith said...

I try. Really I do, but often fall so short of fully comprehending these things of beauty you and many others in THC community produce. The words and the flow of lines are beauty I can sense, even if I can't quite see it myself - like looking through a glass dimly, perhaps.

Maybe it's my state of mind, too cluttered and chaotic to really allow myself to enter poetry. Except, of course, roses are red, and the likes of Dr. Seuss.

But I persist!

1:13 PM  
Blogger Jerry said...

What a wonderful surprise to find yourself in anothers poem. the oddest things can trigger unremembered memories. This was touching.

7:05 PM  
Anonymous patty said...

wow... beautiful, both. makes my heart hurt.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Cassandra Frear said...

This made me feel several emotions at once -- all bubbling in a soup which I can't figure out how to name.

Interesting, how the smallest thing can lead us to what we didn't anticipate.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Pranavam Ravikumar a.k.a. Kochuravi said...

Its nice!

2:26 AM  
OpenID liv2write2day said...

This is an wonderful post. I have the Poets' Companion sitting at my bedside. Always a source of inspiration. Your response is profound. And do try haiku. I suspect you will excel.

10:38 PM  

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