Today’s prompt asked for a “love” or “anti-love” poem, or a mashup.
It’s been a hard year to love. With every headline, a thickening of the skin, a shell forming around a once hopeful heart. So, necessity has invented new passions. Balms, for myself and my kids. Dance parties to pop songs I used to hate. More time reading — escaping into fairy lands, fantastic realms, places where the heroines discover the light, no matter how dark the journey. I look at old photos with new eyes. My cousin, gone now, but beaming then, so near the end. The radiant smile everyone mentions in their tributes. My baby niece smirking in her sleep, not just contentment, but happiness that she is here. Existence itself a marvel. A photo of my daughters on my sister’s lap, summer sun making them all squint. Determination engraved on their faces, like a monument to great change ahead.
Today the prompt pushed for a (blank) of (blank) poem. About the same time I started to write, I saw that Dictionary.com announced their 2017 word of the year as “complicit.” It made me wonder what other recent “word of the year” choices had been, so I went back to 2010 and incorporated them into the poem. I think it came out a bit clunky, but it was a fun experiment. List of words and year below.
This year it’s complicit, and haven’t we all been? Not crimes — we’re good citizens. Pay our taxes. Don’t steal, or kill, or grab what we shouldn’t. But wrongdoing? Certainly. We’re all guilty. The difference, maybe, is a desire to change, but not so much that we tergiversate because then we’ll all just be in a bluster, spinning in our own indecision. It’s probably wrong to want it all — personal privacy, public exposure. Stripped and flayed. Secrets open like wounds. It’s part of our identity to take comfort in what we know, mistrust what we don’t. But xenophobia? It’s a learned fear. An unreasonable one. And I keep thinking of a word on my daughter’s French spelling test this week: étranger. Stranger. A noun and an adjective. Word of the year in a world I thought I understood, at least en petit peu. But I am guilty too, complicit and complacent. Je ne suis pas d’ici.
* Words of the year as named by Dictionary.com: Complicit (2017); Xenophobia (2016); Identity (2015); Exposure (2014); Privacy (2013); Bluster (2012); Tergiversate (2011); Change (2010)
The prompt today asked for a poem titled “Stranger________.” My mind went on a bit of a meandering trip, and strange or not, I decided to follow.
Stranger days I do not recall. The newspaper’s running a story about ten waitresses working at ten different restaurants who have won the lottery this month, and five women on my block had healthy babies this week . The hares, too, have multiplied. Twenty-five count on my lawn this morning, and they’ve lost their fear of people. My daughter walked right up to one, placed a red velvet ribbon around its neck, then leaned in close to hear it whispering. She told me it’s all part of the change, and soon we’ll know, my daughter said. Any other day I’d credit her imagination, but stranger days I do not recall. Every plant in my house bloomed overnight, and the air outside smells of cinnamon. At the grocery store, every piece of fruit felt plump, perfect and unblemished. And all the shoppers broke into “Good Vibrations” at the exact same time. The harmonies were perfect. I didn’t even know I knew the words, but they knew me. And we sang ourselves out en mass into the parking lot, all knowing exactly how long to hold the final note. An older woman began laughing when we were done, and I laughed too when I caught her soft brown eye. We all laughed for what felt like a year, but the sun never set, so it might have been just a minute. Ahhh, she sighed, like you do when you’re spent from the best belly laugh. Have you ever felt so happy? What is it, the rapture? I don’t know, I replied, and I really didn’t, but it was the strangest thing — soon I was floating out of my shoes, unbuttoning my blouse, grinning as I flew up, up, up, with all the women, completely unencumbered.
Today’s prompt was to write a “transformation” poem. What I ended up with is almost a found poem, inspired by the wisdom and optimism of my daughter.
On our way to art class, my daughter tells me she’ll paint a butterfly. It’s animal day, and though she thinks a butterfly is not really an animal in the same was as the zebra or pig her sister will surely paint, she thinks it will still count. Why do you like butterflies, I ask? Because of the change, she says. Metamorphosis, I offer, and she nods. Our change is slow, she explains, but so much the same. When she sees herself in baby photos, she recognizes the girl she knows now. We grow, she says, but a butterfly transforms. And I admit I had never considered the distinction. Who could ever look at the fat, furry caterpillar, crowded with legs and so bound to the ground, and expect it to sprout wings — ornate, delicate wings — and suddenly know how to soar? And later, when she shows me the painting, I note the bright hues of red and orange, the yellow body, and a small black face, cartoonish and human, smiling in the centre of the canvas. Your butterfly is happy, I say. Of course, she smiles back, what’s the point of changing if you don’t change into something better?