Title poem

with thanks to Dr. Stefani Boutelier on Ethical ELA’s #VerseLove today. She writes of the way a title can change the interpretation of a poem, or how it might add layers of metaphor: “I invite you to write a poem where the title helps identify its content, theme, or purpose. The topic and form are up to you–the focus today is on the title.”

I will share my poem’s title at the end.

For Day Fifteen of National Poetry Month

The stories
of time before my time
I lived them
through your telling
felt them through
your pounding heart
breathed them
with your young lungs
until I wanted to run
coughing from
the reek of smoke
the acrid taste of ash
and I think of
how you spent your years
giving yourself
to others
despite the ghosts
that surely clung
as smoke clings to clothing
and as I enter the doorway
I can hardly breathe
for the cloying scent of flowers
and there you are on the table
ready and waiting
in your little box
conveniently resting
in a little white tote
I dare not trust the handles
I just wrap my arms around you
and carry you against my heart
like I did my babies
only there’s no car seat needed now

still, I must keep you safe
in your new lightness
so I strap the seatbelt across us both
pondering the measure of a man
larger than life
so reduced

but I’ve got you, I’ve got you
cradled close
see now, I’m driving you home
sun and shadows flickering
over us like old newsreels
of liberation


Title: What Remains

Dedicated to my father-in-law, a World War II veteran.

His birthday is next week.

7 thoughts on “Title poem

  1. Remains. What remains. (Yes. I see you there.) I’m glad I allowed myself to scroll through your poem line by line, only revealing the next after I had read the ones that come before it. What followed was this story that revealed itself in the telling. I knew from the start it was someone in a generation before yours, who knew and shared a time before your time. And I felt the strong connection you had with this person. And I felt the tender and caring way you took this person by your heart, carrying them in safety – and then that powerful reference to the WWII newsreels in the way you caught the light and shadow flashing into the car. Gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, dear Lainie. My father-in-law lived until 2014. He was my husband’s stepfather and grandfather extraordinaire to our boys. He regaled them (particularly the oldest) with some of his WWII stories. Some of his stories haunt me. I saw shadows dim his jolly blue eyes when he told of some of the remembered sights – like the camps after liberation. He could not speak much about it. I ended up being the one who carried his ashes from the funeral home to my mother-in-law – and I really did strap the seatbelt around the box and myself, ever mindful that I carried what remained of him. And his stories.


  2. Oh this is wonderful, Fran. So loving, so real. I have questions. So this is your father-in-law. Is this somewhat autobiographical? From stories your husband told? It makes me see you with him as a child but I am not sure that could have happened, though it does not diminish the quality of your poem at all. Your images are powerful. The process of bringing him home, so beautiful. Holding him like your babies….. This poem needs to be in the world!
    Do you ever share on Poetry Friday? I don’t know if you are in the links for this week. I am sure the poets there would love to see what you are doing, but maybe I missed it. This week’s host is Jama Rattigan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes – autobiographical. My thoughts in the moment as I picked up his ashes at the funeral home. He lived until 2014. He spoke on accation of his war experience – told of seeing the concentration camps after liberation. I did strap the seatbelt across the box and myself as we rode away (my husband was actually driving). I do submit to Poetry Friday often – haven’t done so this week; perhaps this poem? Perhaps the Habit acrostic? Perhaps the Hope as a sunflower poem? See my dilemma…! And, most of all: Thank you, Janet ❤


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