A poem meets its opposite

with thanks to Jennifer Guyor Jowett for the Open Write invitation on Ethical ELA today. Jennifer writes of discovering the contrary form and its antonymic translation. She invited poets to take a poem we’ve written, or another we found, and use antonyms for various words within the poem to change the meaning.

Some time ago I wrote a pantoum. Today I tried its antonymic translation.

Here’s the pair of them:

You Are the Better One

You are the better one
you chose to stay
I walked away
so much for responsibility

you chose to stay
you, the free spirit
so much for responsibility
I chose my life

you, the free spirit
but I know freedom isn’t free
I chose my life
when I ran from that hall of mirrors

but I know freedom isn’t free
after the shattering
when I ran from that hall of mirrors
leaving the brokenness behind

after the shattering
I walked away
leaving the brokenness behind. 
You are the better one.

Smoke and Mirrors

You are not the better one
because you chose to stay.
I didn’t walk away
from responsibility.

Because you chose to stay
—you, the free spirit
from responsibility—
it wasn’t a choice for me.

You, the free spirit,
never learning freedom isn’t free.
It wasn’t a choice for me
when I ran from that hall of mirrors

never learning freedom isn’t free
before the shattering.
When I ran from that hall of mirrors
I broke only the brokenness.

Before the shattering
I didn’t walk away.
I broke only the brokenness.
You are not the better one.

Sonic Super Villain. SuperSamPhotography. CC BY-SA 2.0.

I bind unto myself

A Spiritual Journey Thursday offering for April.

Karen Eastlund beckons fellow SJT writers with the phrase “I bind unto myself today…”

It’s the beginning of many prayers compiled by the Northumbria Community in Celtic Daily Prayers. The phrase is also attributed to the Hymn of St. Patrick (see Cantica Sacra). Thank you, Karen, for the inspiration and blessing.

What prayer might I make, what claim might I stake, on these five words? What do I need to bind unto myself today, any day, every day? What do I hold most dear? What holds me?

It comes to me via pieces of Scripture—John 1:1-4, 6:63; Hebrews 12:2.

A pantoum:

I bind unto myself today
love of words
the Word, in the beginning
the Creator of all things    

Love of words
I bind unto myself today
the Creator of all things
speaking life

I bind unto myself today
the Word made flesh, who dwelt among us
speaking life
the Author and Finisher of my faith

The Word made flesh, who dwelt among us
the Word, in the beginning
the Author and Finisher of my faith
I bind unto myself today

When you first laughed

a pantoum for Micah, age 5 months

When you first laughed
your family stood
surrounding you
oh how sweet the sound

Your family stood
filled with awe
oh how sweet the sound
of happy forevers beginning

Filled with awe
we are your cloud of witnesses
of happy forevers beginning
on the last day of your first winter

We are your cloud of witnesses
surrounding you
on the last day of your first winter
when you first laughed

Micah, here are your first laughs, captured on video. Your mom, dad, big sister, Grandpa, and I were all there to see it. Notice that the word “Happy” is on your onesie. I hope you know, someday, how much happiness you’ve brought to all of us. This actually occurred on the last day of winter. Your first spring has begun. A whole lifetime of love, blossoming…

You are a joy, sweet Micah-roon.

Love you forever.

—Franna

*******

with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March

First time keeping

an epistolary pantoum, to mark the occasion

Dearest Micah:
I write these lines
while you’re sleeping,
first time in my keeping.

I write these lines
having rocked you to sleep,
first time in my keeping,
listening to you breathing.

Having rocked you to sleep,
these moments, ever sweet,
listening to you breathing
—I am complete.

These moments, ever sweet
while you’re sleeping.
I am complete,
dearest Micah.

My precious Micah, 4 mos. 3/7/2022. #FrannaMagic

*******
with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March.


To write a pantoum, use this line sequence:
1234 2546 5768 7381

Nothing shakes the smiling heart

Nothing shakes the smiling heart.—Santosh Kalwar

a pantoum

Nothing shakes the smiling heart
not loss, not fear, not pain
the heart-smile shines ever bright
even in the rain

Not loss, not fear, not pain
despite tales of gloom and doom
even in the rain
the smiling heart does not consume

Despite tales of gloom and doom
it needs no teeth, for
the smiling heart does not consume
while beating its joyful tune

It needs no teeth, for
the heart-smile shines ever bright
while beating its joyful tune
—nothing shakes the smiling heart.

with thanks to Ruth at SOS-Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog for the Kalwar quote along with the invitation to consider a smile and write about it. Note that in addition to the usual definitions of ingesting, buying, using, etc., “consume” can also mean “perish.”

A game played long ago

This morning I woke to the sounds of wind gusts and snowflakes striking the window…brought back the memory of my oldest boy and a game we played long ago. A pantoum:

A game played long ago:
Little boy crawling into bed, whispering
“The North Wind will blow,
we will have snow!”

Little boy crawling into bed, whispering
“It’s so cold—I can’t get warm.
We will have snow!
Let me sleep here in your arms.”

“It’s so cold—I can’t get warm.
Until I am grown and gone,
let me sleep here in your arms”
—the memory of these moments!

Until I am dead and gone
the North Wind will blow
the memory of these moments,
a game played long ago.

Contemplation

six going on sixteen
that’s how you look to me, girl,
making my days bright and evergreen
with your unique window on the world

that’s how you look to me, girl,
pondering deepest thoughts
with your unique window on the world
piercing the depths of my heart

pondering deepest thoughts
like what would life be without you
piercing the depths of my heart
where I will keep you always

what would life be without you
making my days bright and evergreen
I would keep you always
six going on sixteen

Poignant poise

(a pantoum)

Little seabird with only one foot
Standing perfectly balanced at the shore
You’re so calm, so still
Despite wind-ruffled feathers


Standing perfectly balanced at the shore
You’re a picture of grace
Despite wind-ruffled feathers
For you aren’t alone


You’re a picture of grace
Safeguarded, transcending
For you aren’t alone
Flanked by faithful friends keeping watch


Safeguarded, transcending
You’re so calm, so still
Flanked by faithful friends keeping watch

Little seabird, with only one foot.

As best I can determine, this is a laughing gull, already wearing winter plumage. I thought it was merely standing on one leg before realizing the other foot was gone. I have since learned that such sightings are common: many gulls lose feet and legs when they become entangled in fishing nets while hunting for food. What you cannot see in this close-up are two fellow gulls standing nearby, looking in different directions like bodyguards. I was struck by the poignant poise of this little shorebird and the proximity of the others. Gulls are symbols of adaptability, resourcefulness, community, survival, and strength. Maybe even uncommon grace.

*******

with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

In the grass (a snapshot poem)

with thanks to Susan Ahlbrand who invited writing around an old snapshot today for #verselove at Ethical ELA.

A tribute to my grandmother, who had six children by age twenty-two, during the Depression. She outlived four of them. One baby boy died a few years before this photo was taken.

For those of you who read my poem for Earnie (my aunt Earline): she’s second from right, the child snuggled closest to her mother.

A pantoum for Day Twenty-Four of National Poetry Month

In the tall, tall grass
a mother’s determined love
covers a multitude of sins
revealed in time

A mother’s determined love
surviving day by day
revealed in time
burns at the roots of deprivation

Surviving day by day
her feisty, firebright glow
burns at the roots of deprivation
before the brokenness shows

Her feisty, firebright glow
covers a multitude of sins
before the brokenness shows
in the tall, tall grass

Mirror poem: A small cup of light

Yesterday on Ethical ELA, host Kim Johnson invited poets to write mirror poems: “Find a poet whose work inspires you and write a mirror poem of your own by taking a root from a poet’s work and allowing it to breathe life into your own inspired creation.  This may be in the form of a borrowed line, a repeating line, a section or stanza, or an entire poem…”

There are a couple of breathtaking lines I love at the end of Billy Collins’ poem, “Tuesday, June 4th, 1991” – he is writing about dawn coming and “offering a handful of birdsong and a small cup of light.”

For Day Eight of National Poetry Month, here’s my mirror of those last five words, in the form of a pantoum:

To My Granddaughter, Age 5
(with love from Franna)

a small cup of light
scooped from ocean waves
my sparkling little love
dancing through my days

scooped from ocean waves
my giggling water sprite
dancing though my days
now such a sleepy sight

my giggling water sprite
goodnight, goodnight
now such a sleepy sight
to me you are, you are

goodnight, goodnight
my sparkling little love
to me you are, you are
a small cup of light

*******

Special thanks to Kim for sharing my poem “Listen,” which she mirrored so beautifully. See both poems and the process here: Ethical ELA VerseLove 7/30: Mirror Poems.