Saturday, February 07, 2009

Blogger Be Brave

Nesting Doll & Porcelain

Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who dared reach beyond his mousedom, was sentenced to the dungeon. There, in a darkness so black he could not see his paw in front of his whiskers, he began to wonder if he even existed. In desperation he 'grabbed hold of his have something, anything, to hold on to. He considered fainting.'

Then he remembered the 'words of the threadmaster: honor, courtesy, devotion, and bravery' and thought, 'I will be brave.'

Bravery. Bravery! 'How best for him to be brave? He cleared his throat. He let go of his tail. He stood up straighter. Once upon a time, he said out loud to the darkness. He said these words because they were the best, the most powerful words that he knew and just the saying of them comforted him.' (pp.74-75)

Once upon a time. These are the first words of fairy tale, the quintessential beginning of story that proposes to hold in tension both joy and sorrow, terror and triumph. It strikes me that whenever we find the bravery to tell a story true and whole, to say 'Once upon a time, I...', we do something extremely powerful. We take the mute fear of darkness and give it voice; we form the void, make possible a clean and unexpected comfort, maybe even joy.

I feel compelled to say this because I have noticed small places of doubt among us— those who are asking, 'Is it okay if I write something dark?' and similarly 'Is it okay to dare the darkness of life just for a moment and write in joy?' It is okay. Maybe even essential for our existence, to keep us from fainting.

Of course I cannot resist extending an invitation then, even though I'm going to be leaving next week to attend Jubilee. It means an earlier deadline for us. Wednesday afternoon, if you want to be considered for a feature at High Calling Blogs. But here's the invitation. (There is a part of me that hesitates to begin with this prompt, simply because I don't want it to plunge us into abstract language, stereotype and sentimentality, but I thought it would be fun to try)...

Write a poem that begins, middles, or ends with Once upon a time... or even just Once... Or, if you'd prefer, you could use some other common fairy tale language like happily ever after. Just try to tell a moment true and whole. Don't shrink from the darkness or the joy but outline them in bold details— the broken yardstick that snapped because your mother spanked you with it; the goldenrods you brought to your teacher that she threw away, declaring them weeds (true story!); or the hands of your child that reached warm to cradle your chin, while she looked you in the eye and said 'You are a good mommy [or daddy].'

While you saddle your horse and dig through briar rose and bramble, I will wait for you, once upon time...

The Dolls photo, by Sara B. Used with permission.

[UPDATE: Here's my contribution...]


upon a time
I thought you would
ride back into our lives
convertible Pontiac,
into the kitchen
grey splintered
barn, dead end road,
barrel, wind whipped
creaking maple...
pick up mop
you had thrown across
black and white
checkered floor,
put it back
near white iron sink,
kiss mother
on the cheek
and play fly-like-a-birdie
with me again.
That was before I learned
some people never
make it
to happily ever after.

Nancy's The Dance of Time and First Post
Nikki's The Dangers of Sitting
Jennie's Picture This and Broken Wing
Erin's Divine: The Sprite (don't miss the final line of this... it was something to ponder)
Katrina's Love Amazing
Mom2Six's Once Upon a Time
Erica's Once upon a time
Laura's Valentine
Laure's 5 O'Clock Afternoon Hour

Marcus's Drought on the Open Road

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love the sound of this word.

1382, from O.Fr. jubilé, from L.L. jubilæus "the jubilee year," originally an adj., "of the jubilee," altered (by association with L. jubilare "to shout with joy") from Gk. iabelaios, from iobelos, from Heb. yobhel "jubilee," formerly "a trumpet, ram's horn," lit. "ram."

The original notion was of a year of emancipation of slaves and restoration of lands, to be celebrated every 50th year (Levit. xxv.9); it was proclaimed by the sounding of a ram's horn on the Day of Atonement.

The Catholic Church sense of "a period for remission of sin penalties in exchange for pilgrimages, alms, etc." was begun in 1300 by Boniface VIII.

The general sense of "season of rejoicing" is first recorded 1592, though through early 20c. the word kept its specific association with 50th anniversaries.

As a type of African-American folk song, it is attested from 1872.

11:21 AM  
Blogger elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I don't know whether to cry or to shout my hallelujahs. How about both?!

The power of putting voice to our "once upon a time's"...

It's a power that shatters and corrupts the darkness with the truth of God's illuminating light. And that light always brings a deeper healing and wholeness to the one who finds the courage and the voice for the telling.

Just a mess over here with how you paint your words.


6:12 PM  
Blogger Joelle said...

Those last four lines of your poem make me cry. I had a fairy-tale dream in childhood that was similarly broken, unrealized. He didn't come back. There wasn't happily-ever-after. Keep hoping, yield to bitterness, or something else?

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said just what I needed to hear today, L.L. I will be brave enough to write what God leads me to write. Thank you.

6:40 PM  
Blogger Lorrie said...

Odd. I just finished a post that started with the words... "once upon a time". I took them out at the last minute. Hmmph!
I see that Nancy says how she loves the word Jubilee. I'm thinking, me too, it reminds me of how I like the word hallelujah. I scroll to the next comment and Elaine uses that word!
Am I in the Twilight Zone? hee hee..
Not sure I'll accomplish the challenge but plan on giving it a good try :-)

10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once wrote as a wedding gift to a couple who had everything, a once upon a time fairytale drawing on their personal characteristics and histories.

I then let my daughter draw the illustrations and my son color them.

It was the best wedding gift I've ever given.... And most time consuming!

you are a gem for your post! thank you for sharing!

12:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i like your poem, i can see so much in it.

i gave this challenge a shot.
it is still a long way from the bullseye. but, i like to take part, ya know...hang with the gang.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

I may just try my hand and heart at that, L.L. I like the mouse part, quite creative.

I do think it helps us to express the darkness at times, what we can make of it, or what we fear about it.

5:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is such a beautiful poem. Thank you for sharing it with us.

10:59 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Nancy... it is a cool word, isn't it? I'm looking forward to the conference.

Elaine... I think that's the idea... when we can cry and shout in the same breath because beauty and pain have danced.

Joelle... I'm touched that the piece resonated with you. I think I've done all those things you mention, though by now I have landed on loving my father. Maybe because I have come to see that I'm no knight in shining armor either.

Pam... yes, be brave. I look forward to seeing what you write.

Lorrie.... welcome to The Twilight Zone. :) Can't wait to see your 'once upon a time.'

Cindy... what a wonderful gift. It would be nice to read that on each anniversary.

Ted!! I would love to see you try this. And you would really like the book I took this example from even though it's a young adult book (very philosophical under the story).

Heather... you're welcome. :)

11:11 AM  
Blogger Nikki said...

I loved your poem and the juxtaposition of the fairy tale language and the un-Disney ending. How often in life do our knights and princes become stymied by the thick thorns wrapped around our castles or just become wrapped up in other adventures? Still, we live on. Wiser, perhaps, but we manage... and sometimes we tell the story.

I decided to try yet again on this challenge. I'm not entirely sure that I kept within the spirit of not using sentimental language and whatnot, but I enjoyed writing them anyway. My blog post "lost" is where the two latest entries may be found.

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are really getting pretty good at this poetry stuff.

The stuff about darkness and light reminds me of the essays from Square Halo Press Books in "And It Was Good..."

They have an essay about depicting evil without being merely pornographic. It's a good essay.

Of course, being a fan of zombies and explosions, my tastes may be considered unredemptive to some.

3:05 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Once upon a time there was a mother who saw great poetry in her little ones.
She posted a small entry on her blog today. Divine: The Sprite

Now back to beating the brambles and briars.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Joy said...

Undone by the fairy tales...such beautiful words wended here by each of you. Jubilee, a letting go of old wounds and the rejoicing of newness- such tales told here, grace-filled.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

By Wednesday? Yikes! I'm behind already. Been listening to too many 'once upon a times' in this head of mine!

It's past my bedtime, but I'll get on this tomorrow.

Your poem breathes.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Katrina said...

Your poem spoke volumes, dear one. It's tough to write like this, is it not? Tough for me, yes, I am not feeling too brave about this one I wrote but I've posted it anyway and am so glad that I finally have my thoughts put down into words.

Again, thank you so much for your writing encouragement.

12:16 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I join several others, not too brave about this one. But I have attempted to join in also. I appreciate the ideas and challenge of trying.

2:03 PM  
Blogger RissaRoo said...

I posted, too...and I loved your poem. Thank you for being brave and for encouraging others to do the same!

11:55 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Sorry I'm late. . .

My post is over here:

Inspired by Valentine's Day :)

8:53 AM  
Blogger 23 degrees said...

I feel like I six again when I read your poem. A flood of memories kicked up here. I often wonder about the way we process childhood memories, now as adults.

I love what you said here: "It strikes me that whenever we find the bravery to tell a story true and whole, to say 'Once upon a time, I...', we do something extremely powerful. We take the mute fear of darkness and give it voice; we form the void, make possible a clean and unexpected comfort, maybe even joy."

10:35 PM  
Blogger Laurie A. said...

vivid. no minced words. and dare i say despite what you learned after ... hopeful.

that point of demarcation points me to the frontier of "one day."

you brought me to the place of considering my own once upon a time thinking ... powerful.

11:31 PM  
Blogger sojourner said...

Happy Valentine's Day!


9:17 AM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

I'm still thinking about this, a little. And the book does sound intriguing. Maybe I'll try my hand at it tomorrow.

10:51 PM  

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