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Monday, December 7, 2009

How a Poem Takes Me by Surprise

I've been doing 100 days of twitter-poems on my poetry blog, since December first. It's a great way to keep my creativity flowing, and my mind on poetic possibilities, while disciplining myself to write creatively every day.

We had some news this week that shook my family, and challenged our faith. My new sister-in-law, Julie, is pregnant with my baby brother's first child. She learned Thursday that she has a tumor that will require surgery to remove part of her jaw and many of her teeth. They will reconstruct with hip bone. This is doubly scary knowing the threats such a surgery could pose for the tiny baby she carries in her womb. She is being advised not to delay the surgery until the baby is born in May, because of the risk of very aggressive cancer.

With these thoughts in the back of my head, I set out to spend Saturday afternoon with Larry. As we drove about town, several images, and sensory experiences caught my attention, so I jotted them down on a scrap of paper in my purse. If you'll indulge me, and keep reading, I'd like to share some of them with you, and how they came together as a very short, very powerful poem. (At least it feels very powerful for me.)

Larry shot a U-turn on 51st street about four o'clock Saturday, and across the street, an apartment complex caught my eye. The walls were pale yellow, and because of the angle of the sun, two bare trees were silhouetted against the walls. It was a striking image. I found it difficult to discern where the tree ended and the shadows began. I jotted down the phrase, "tree shadows climbing walls."

As we turned the corner and headed to pick up some things at Hobby Lobby, I heard Rod Stewart on the radio, singing "Wake up Maggie, there's something I'm trying to say to you..." I imagined a sleepy headed girl, and wrote down the phrase, "Maggie sleeps on the radio."

After lunch we decided to go to a movie, and were moved and inspired by "Blindside." On the way home, I had a voice mail from Mama in which she repeated a conversation about the many miracles our family has experienced in my lifetime. I had a sudden urge to go home, and sit at Mama's table. I jotted down the words, "I believe in miracles."

At home, things started coming together, and as I played with phrases and counted characters, the image of a tiny girl asleep on the radio reminded me of first "the Littles" and then "Gulliver's Travels." I recalled that earlier in the day a friend had mentioned Gulliver, and the image of a huge man tied to the ground had tucked itself away in my head for later.

What follows is the poem that I posted just before I packed a bag and headed up the highway to Mama's house, for the rest of the weekend. It was good to be home and bear the weight of hoping for miracles and answers with those I love.


Day 5

tree shadows climb walls
as Maggie sleeps on the radio
I’m a Lilliputian believer
in miracles and Gulliver



Even when it seems like the whole world just keeps going in spite of the darkness that's falling around me... though I feel very small, I believe in hope. I believe in miracles. I believe in something bigger than I can even imagine, a giant, Gulliver-sized answer from a God who loves.

I hope this poem encourages you to write, to create, to play with words, and to believe. There is much to believe in.

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