Response to The Sunday Whirl Wordle: June 30, 2013

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Here’s an attempt at a poem in response to Brenda Warren’s weekly word challenge at The Sunday Whirl.

I like playing around with poetry; I believe writing poems sharpens my senses and, hopefully, enriches the language of my fiction.

Brenda’s words this week come from Glacier National Park signage:

bird, bridge, unstable, wild, bend, rock, retreat, bear, lane, fallen, meadow, island

Plus a bonus word: Heaven . . .

Crossing

Suspended between earth and heaven

the swinging bridge bends in the wind.

You stand still and clutch the ropes

until your fingers numb. You’ve crossed  

here before: the rocking’s wildest

over the middle of the gorge, just

when you’ve come too far to retreat.

 

Breathe, breathe, don’t look down

to see who might have fallen before you.

How could you bear to know?

Listen to your pounding heart,

the roiling water below,

the flicker and call of birds,

the wind’s dying shush,

 

and fix your eyes on the far side: 

a single tall palm, a flash of red

in the meadow (bird? bloom?)

where the rutted lane leads out

to the main road, across the island, home.

It’s only one bridge, after all:

unstable, like a life.

 

To see other folks’ efforts, visit The Sunday Whirl!

Writers: do you enjoy stepping out of your genre occasionally? If so, what do you gain from it?

Age Fourteen: Not There Yet

In terms of maturity, that is, in every sense of the word.

The photo? Another beach trip. Note that the legs are getting longer, but I still look like a child. Love the car, though.

Beach motor hotel, the fifties

I was, however, a mature pianist. I gave a “senior” recital in October after I’d turned fourteen in September. They even trotted out the high school glee club for this one. It was quite a deal. And then it was over. I didn’t want to take piano any longer. What was the point?

The event of the year was a non-event, actually. (I’m fudging a little in order to write about it, but did happen during my fourteenth year.) Had I gone that night, it might have been one of the most memorable of my life. A young singer from Memphis named Elvis Presley was set to play at the Toccopola, Mississippi, gymnasium on March 29, 1955. (Toccopola was, as we’d say, way out in the county. This was not a major tour. Elvis was just getting his swivel going.) I begged to go, oh, how I begged, but my parents said no. So I missed seeing ELVIS IN PERSON, before he hit it really big.

I have fictionalized that night in a long poem. The venue is no longer a high school gym but a roadhouse. Makes it more interesting, I think. In the poem, not only do I go to see Elvis, but my parents . . . Well, you’ll see.

This edited section picks up in the middle:

Summer Nights Like This

. . . and there he was—Elvis,

not yet the King—

just a fresh-faced, pouty-mouthed

kid from Tupelo with a rag-tag band

and the longest sideburns

I’d ever seen. He sang

“I don’t care if the sun don’t shine,

get my lovin’ in the evenin’ time”

and the crowd was dancing

and screaming and I was screaming

and the back of my neck prickled

like a ghost had run a finger

across it

and it made me turn and look

and there, across the room,

I saw my mother and daddy dancing . . .

They did the bop better than any of us kids.

When had they practiced their twirls and turns,

their dips and swaying hips?

When the song ended, even Elvis applauded,

but I looked away. I could not bear

my mother’s beauty,

the wild suggestion of my daddy’s touch:

I began to cry,

not for fear of being caught

but because I imagined them young,

I imagined them lovers on summer nights

like this, her naked skin against his,

with all the mysteries I had yet to learn

before them still.

Sunday Whirl Meets the Memoir Challenge

I haven’t done the Wordle for the Sunday Whirl in a while, but these words leapt out at me. I think it’s because I’ve been immersed in the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge for the last two weeks.

All of you who know me know I don’t consider myself a poet, but here’s what came out of this week’s Wordle list. It breaks the chain of memories by jumping ahead a few years, but it still fits the challenge.

Here are the words: umbrella, deeper, inherit, excuses, stand, become, thunder, childhood, joined, vowed, shifts, light . . .

Wedding March

We needed umbrellas that hot afternoon.

The end of June, thunderstorms were common

but this one didn’t last long. The clouds soon

shifted and light broke through. We would have to dig

deeper for excuses—I in my white dress

and he in a tux that didn’t quite fit.

In an upstairs room I waited, wilting.

My childhood friend pushed back my damp bangs

and grasped my hand, but what did she know

about standing in the church, poised

to be joined to a boy it turns out I hardly knew?

My father waited at the top of the stairs,

and I wondered what would become of me.

Then he walked me down, and the boy and I

vowed to cherish, to inherit each other’s woes.