Indelible (a tritina poem)

Finished a poetry course this afternoon, with the writing of my first tritina.

The form: ten lines comprised of three tercets and a final line. The tercet lines end with three different words, in this pattern: 123, 312, 231, with the final line containing all three words, usually in 123 order.

The image of an old table finally came to mind, along with the three end words. As I started writing, I noted that my first couple of lines happened to have eight syllables. It then became a “thing” for me to keep eight syllables in EVERY line…so here you have it:


Heirloom table, cross-hatched with scars
I would refinish your surface
if not for erasing stories

family-gathering stories
traded while the bread knife yet scars
daily life, beneath the surface.

-Oh, how the memories surface
as I stroke these silent stories
told by generational scars.

Our scars surface in our stories.

1880s heart of pine table. Paris on Ponce & Le Maison Rouge. CC-BY

7 thoughts on “Indelible (a tritina poem)

  1. The intertwining of stories and scars and surface creates an intriguing and poignant poem. “the bread knife yet scars” This image works well as the knife is passed around the table as each person takes a piece and becomes part of the story of this table.

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  2. I have actually not heard of a tritina at least I don’t think I have. I like your poem. When did Indelible come to you because it is a great title, I think. I think “if not for erasing stories” is such an important, anchoring line right in your first stanza. I love the table and its memories for you. Did your three words just pop into your head? Did you brainstorm? I imagine it takes time to make a form like this work. I should try. I have a poem to write on a deadline so maybe this form might work and if it does I will return to let you know. Keep writing, Fran!


    • Hi, Janet – so appreciate your thoughts and questions. “Indelible” was a word in one of my earlier drafts and I liked it for the title. When I revised and removed the word from the second stanza, I felt it made the title even stronger. One big takeaway from my course was to “make the title do more work” and so it does here, a bit. So glad you picked up “erasing stories” as an anchoring line – that really is what the poem is about, the stories – all the living – that happened around the table as scars were made. I am thinking of revising again to break out of the self-imposed syllable count and to add more imagery. I had a hard time coming up with a subject for a tritina; I read quite a few of them and was happy when something triggered this idea of a table imprinted with stories. I started with table, stories, scars and had such trouble with “table” that I changed it to “surface,” and things went better afterward. I shall need to write more tritinas – I found the form tough, but I found a lot of things tough in this course, and questioned my ability at times!! Do let me know if you try writing a tritina – and thank you so much.


      • Hi Fran,

        I (as you may recall) was going to try this course, but it got canceled by the pandemic. Then I did not want to go to the next option(s)? Anyhow after I bought the books that were recommended I truly got some cold feet worries. BUT I figured I would learn a lot and should consider pushing myself and expect to be frustrated, something hard for me with my crazy schedule (grandkids). So I know you have struggled with some of your poems and you also know I think you are an amazingly fine poet. I do want to learn and know more forms on the “tip of my tongue” and that comes from study and practice. Have you read Marjorie Maddox’s book on forms? I love it. I carry it with me. Clear and great poems as examples. Here’s a link just in case. I really like Marjorie as a fb friend, someone I look forward to meeting in person. I would take a course from her. Where did you find tritinas to read/study? One idea I have is to see if we could find a small group with a teacher and then the participants could share as well, where we could have a retreat in a fun spot (I know a place in Maine and maybe one near where I live). It’s a dream. I also think MM would be a terrific teacher for a Highlights course but I also love going to Georgia (Heard) and Rebecca Kai (Dotlitch’s) course there, too. However, competition is tricky for classes for writers on poetry and I can’t write “on demand” much or well anymore. I think it could be age or fear or who knows what. So when we have to share i sit in amazement at what others can write after 5 minutes and I am feverishly attempting to revise so when it’s my turn I don’t want to crawl under the table or pass. If I organized something I would do a bunch of “writes” on whatever prompts and then have writing on your own time, then a time to share what you feel ready to share later. That’s one reason I loved the online course I took with Georgia Heard. She might be doing another but not sure when. I am such a slow writer. Have to work on a poem for a project. I had 3 to do, all Ekphrastic, and one is left. Irene Latham does this so beautifully on her blog and I took a class online with her which was great, maybe early May this year. Hers are so finely crafted and she packs a punch in a smaller amount of words, uses her linebreaks in such interesting ways. She talks about “taking off the front porch” when you revise so that you get to the heart of your poem. That is good advice. Also I recall Lucy Calkins advise for teaching elem kids writing. You have to be at the same time, passion hot and critic cold, so that you get it out and then work hard on the revising. I love thinking of it as seeing again and so for me my poems never feel done so I tend to drive myself nuts adjusting. Anyhow….just a morning chat and you are helping me without even knowing to get into the flow of starting my last poem. I will send you the poems and art via email if you want to see where I am on these……I can’t wait to have some consistent time to write but too many household projects right now.

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