Friday, March 29, 2013



I saw pieces of my mother
in my home the other day.
I tried to put them back together,
but they wouldn't fit --
not the same way.

I saw pieces of my mother
and I tried to talk with them.
One conversed quite nicely,
but from others --
just a blank stare.

I found pieces of my mother,
and pieces,
and pieces.
No matter where I looked for her,
the whole just wasn't there.

I said something about pieces of her in a facebook conversation about my mother's dementia, and that inspired this poem. I'm not sure it's an accurate representation of my feelings, it's just the poem that came to me. Sorry if that's a cop-out.

An alternate first stanza that might reflect the truth a little better would be something like,

"I saw pieces of my mother
in my home the other day.
I didn't try to reassemble them --
knew they wouldn't fit --
wish I'd tried, all the same."

But I don't like the sound of that as much. The rhythm isn't quite right.

The rhymes and words are so simple, it seems a little odd in light of my last post on rhythm and rhyme. Odd in light of the fact that it's the sounds of the words that drove my writing, more than the feelings. It seems sort of like something a child would write. Like I would have written, as a child. Perhaps it's okay, a good juxtaposition with the subject matter? What do you think? I think it seems to work, in fact I'm growing quite fond and proud of it, but I'm biased. I can never see my own writing very clearly, with the same eyes that read everything else. Or at the most, it seems to take years of not looking at it.

This one appeared almost wholly formed in my mind at 1:30 in the morning about a month ago. I hate to say things like that, it contributes to an idea that writing is all about inspiration, rather than time and work. It's work, for a number of reasons. Enjoyable work that I can't keep myself from doing, but I also need to sit down at my desk and commit myself to get anywhere. As Philip Pullman says when asked where he gets his ideas from, “I don’t know where they come from, but I know where they come to: they come to my desk, and if I’m not there, they go away again.”

Nonetheless, this poem did more or less "appear." It was kind of like a quick slideshow -- I'd follow one line to see where it was going, and then the next would materialize. I suppose that's a part of the work of writing -- Kristin Cashore said she thinks Neil Gaiman said that "everyone has ideas, the difference with writers is that writers notice that they're having an idea."

It takes practice to notice, too (as reading more of the link above would corroborate). It takes writing to be on the lookout for writing ideas. (At least for me.)

I noticed a phrase repeating in my head that sounded a bit to me like a line from a poem: "I saw pieces of my mother," or maybe it was simply "pieces of my mother." I went from there. I got up out of bed and wrote it down, and crossed out words here and there, replaced some of them with others. And there it was.

Of course, talking about my writing process as though I am a writer, one of the ones Neil Gaiman was talking about... it sounds kind of arrogant, if you don't like the poem, if it doesn't work. If it does work, well... then maybe it's okay.

So, feedback? Do you like it? Any similar sorrows you're struggling with? Or tell me, what do you think about the balance between work and inspiration, not just in writing, but in any creative endeavor? Or about the balance of self-criticism? Is there something personal you've been wanting to share somewhere, but you're doubting yourself?

Judging by the number of questions here, maybe I'm trying to do too much with this post, and should be more focused. Meh.

To shift back a little to the poem's subject matter:

Let us pray for all who suffer and are afflicted in body or in mind;

For the hungry and the homeless, the destitute and the oppressed
For the sick, the wounded, and the crippled
For those in loneliness, fear, and anguish
For those who face temptation, doubt, and despair
For the sorrowful and bereaved
For prisoners and captives, and those in mortal danger

That  God in his mercy will comfort and relieve them, and grant them the knowledge of his love, and stir up in us the will and patience to minister to their needs.

Gracious God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of all who suffer: Let the cry of those in misery and need come to you, that they may find your mercy present with them in all their afflictions; and give us, we pray, the strength to serve them for the sake of him who suffered for us, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 -The Book of Common Prayer, from the Liturgy for Good Friday

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