Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Problem with Poetry

I was absorbed in learning to write poetry when N died. It was a good vehicle for working through ongoing grief for my parents, who died 31 and 37 years ago. The day N killed himself, I had prepared copies of 2 poems to bring to a workshop—one about walking the mourner’s path, one about the suicide of my father. Several months earlier, I wrote a sestina (a type of formal poetry) in which I lamented my helplessness in the face of N’s depression since he cast off from the mother ship and got caught in the doldrums. The last 2 verses read:

We detect a flare: Require a tug. Some witchcraft
seizes his mind. We throw towlines from ship,
offer a berth, but it only rubs salt 
in his howl for a homeland
where no one needs maps
and all vessels are seaworthy.

How will his craft find a port in the land--                                                     
despite hardship, recover a map--                              
when now the salt marsh is all he can see?

Since N died, I have been afraid to read poetry. Too many poets are depressed and suicidal; too many poems take the reader to the most painful places, sometimes without warning, and I feel that I can’t take the risk. 

Since N died, I haven’t written serious poetry, only a few rough fragments. Like this:

How different the world looked
three weeks ago –
heaps of jasmine spilling
over the fence,
spring fever scent that wafted
over the neighborhood;
a child healing, we thought,
in the womb of home and TV,
licking his wounds.

Today, the blossoms brown and brittle,
the child gone,
a family ripped apart--
one desperate moment
that changes everything.

And  this:
Orchid buds opening
one by one
each day,
turning to the sun.

Hopes and dreams collapsing
one by one
each hour
for our dead son.  

So far, my need to write about this experience comes out in prose. I look forward to when poetry flows again.

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