Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What arrives? What leaves?

I love coming across a poem that hits me with a force, that impresses me with its language and ideas, and that’s exactly how I felt when I read the following:

When We Sold the Tent

When we sold the tent
we threw in the Grand Canyon
with its shawl of pines,
lap full of cones and chipmunks
and crooked seams of river.

We let them have the
parched white moonscapes of Utah,
and Colorado's
magnificat of flowers
sunbursting hill after hill.

Long gentle stretches
of Wyoming, rain outside
some sad Idaho
town where the children, giddy
with strange places, clowned all night.

Eyes like small veiled moons
circling our single light, sleek
shadows with pawprints,
all went with the outfit; and
youth, a river of campfires.

Rhina P. Espaillat

from Playing at Stillness
© Truman State University Press.

Don’t you just love the 2nd line – ‘we threw in the Grand Canyon’? That mix of ordinary, colloquial expression juxtaposed with the enormity of the place? And a ‘shawl of pines’… there’s such comfort there, the comfort of good memories. In fact, I could comment on something in every line. I’ve read the poem about half a dozen times now and each time I feel so ‘lifted’ by it. The third stanza, with its enjambed lines is a delight to read and feel, and then the opening line of the 4th stanza: ‘Eyes like small veiled moons’/ - the beauty of it is breathtaking, while the last line ‘lands’ the poem perfectly. It focuses to a theme, but allows the poem to stay ‘open’ so the reader can wander along their own ‘river of campfires’.

I am so pleased to have discovered this poet and look forward to reading more of her work. You can buy her book at The Book Depository, my favourite online bookseller.

So, the prompt is to write a poem that explores what an object brings into your life when it arrives, or what it takes out of your life when it leaves, when it’s given away, or maybe even lost.


Martin Cordrey said...


The kids have a new object of affection.
Their love for me has taken flight
like a used sweat wrapper caught in a sudden gust.
I do not bite or scratch.

I know I’m too busy
too chase a fake mouse on a string
or scamper around the kitchen chasing a pink toy –
the same kitchen I work daily to place a roof over

with fruit in a bowl.
One day the kitten will be too old too play
and will lie all day under a shady tree
refusing to play ball.

Maybe I should have brought them a budgie
in a cage?


Unknown to the world
a ship sank
releasing a million yellow plastic ducks
into the oceans.

Each year they spread
pulled by the moon.
They turn up in the most unexpected places
washed up on our beaches
like lost shells washed mute by the seven seas.
A million yellow ducks
spread across our planet
like a new virus.

Lynne Rees said...

Good to hear from you, Martin. Thanks for posting your poems - I love the image of all those ducks!

Angela said...

What a lovely website! Your theme inspired me to write:


They arrived hard and spring green
in my winter fruit box this week.
I put them in the bowl to rest,
speckled eggs in a wooden nest.
It’s taken me years to know
to warm them till yellow.

I awoke to a metamorphosis
into ripe creatures.
My clutch of four could feed
a family, but it’s just me.
I sit, morning sunshine
waving into the kitchen,
and eat, belly filling,
my four sweet Williams.

Leila said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
charlotte segaller said...


It's all I have left of the old house,
a bare-boned bamboo skeleton chair.
Back then it was crammed in a corner,
a spare seat in the dark near the fire.

As if he knew, a young dog strayed in
all stick-thin ribs and long legs trembling.
For a chair and a name, he gave us
his deep brown eyes, black velvet ears and

at the strike of our sudden cold grief,
his warm fur nudged up against our shins.
Our dog, house, clutter all now have gone,
the life we lived there pared right down to

the bare brown bones of Sam's old chair,
shrouded in a softly draped cream throw.
Now it's where the light shines through, over
my waiting pair of unworn shoes.

linda w said...

Goodbye Paris Flat

Goodbye little Paris flat
four staircases above
the Rue de l’Ecole where I learned about life and love
and more than that:

dawn rooftops sparkling frost,
warm nights drinking wine
while we talked about Marcel Proust and time
remembered and lost.

A cork on the floor.
I recall how we sat up late
discussing Rousseau, Sartre, religion and fate.
My hand is on the door.

Cupboards empty, boxes stacked
like parcels waiting to go;
shelves bare: I’ve tidied and cleaned even though
I won’t be back.

Nuits blanches, café noir,
films seen again and again;
books read and wept over by the banks of the Seine,
lighting a fire.

Goodbye little Paris flat,
so much to thank you for,
as I finger the keys, slide them back through the door
and they drop on the mat.

charlotte segaller said...

I've written another using this prompt (sorry!)


A padded cube, all dressed up in
its finest antique indian fabrics,
waits for when, day after day,
you collapse into the fading sofa,
lift your feet off the rented carpet.

Quietly it came,
with its trail of echoes,
new gentle jazz sounds you
found could fill our evenings.
Now nervous toes
in tired socks,
turned from twitching to dancing,
tap soft time
and a jumping spoon in a breakfast cup

The feel of silk against our skin,
the hours poured into its
lacework flowers and filigree vines,
it seems
we'll sit a little longer before we get up.

margaret beston said...

American Silver

Tissue paper crinkles
as I unfold your gift –
a small antique
a sugar spoon
from his old home
in Apalachin.

It has lived
in my imagination -
now I’m there.
I see the open steps
where he swept snow
the gap beneath
for winter wood
the sleepy porch
his mother rocking babies.

I see the maple paths
he took to school
the dusty tracks to town
see him clinging tight
inside the Buick
as it weaves his father
home from the speak-easy

In the Johnson park
the carousel still turns
carved wooden horses,
gemstone eyes.
I see him beat
his makeshift drum
see him race with others
as he hears the cry
of ‘free ice creams for all’.

You drive me through
the concrete arches
of the ‘square deal’ town
where growing, grieving
the boy became a man.

You filled in the missing
jigsaw pieces of his life.
I bring them home
with one small silver spoon
wrapped tight in tissue paper.

Margaret Beston