Thursday, March 08, 2007

Poem for Poetry Thursday

Happy Poetry Thursday!

Once again, I didn't do the prompt but I attempted something new. Thought I would write a poem using the letters of the alphabet to start each line. Boy, that was harder than I thought. Some lines seemed forced while others surprised me. I really enjoy trying something every one in a while pushes me into a new space. Added bonus: This turned out to be a prose poem.

Needless to say, the poem is still very raw and needs further revision.

Looking forward to reading so many great poems today.

(Note: NICU is an abbreviation for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. And, I can't seem to make the lines work in Blogger, hence the smaller font. But trust me, there are 26 lines in the poem.)


Night Work

After the families have visited for the evening, tethered their well wishes like
Balloons to the backs of chairs, taken photos of the first hours of life, my mother
Checks in on the preemies, often healthy but occasionally too yellow, or pink, or blue.
Deflated and in need of oxygen, they are held together by some order,
Exhausted by the urgency of being saved. For every tiny
Fledgling that leaves the unit, there is always another in need of touch.
Gloved, my mother cared through a thin layer of separation while
Holding the head of a baby born smaller than a shadow.
I think she liked the all-nighters, especially in early
January, babies born just after the New Year. She liked doing the
Kind things that love cannot do: adjusting another woman’s breast,
Lifting the pillow under her head so the baby slips just above the
Mother’s ribs, offering advice or comfort before returning to the
NICU, the tectonic plates of mother and child drifting together then apart.
Often she delighted in the midnight coos, a love song for the
Phantom ache of babies she could never carry, those tiny loaves
Quick, unleavened, so eager to take touch like communion, while she loved what
Remained, leaving her impoverished soul open and gaping.
She shuffled through our house as if they were long, antiseptic corridors,
There but not there. Such is the life of one in service to others,
Under no illusions about the gift of grace. My mother, whose
Voice is the sound of love becoming, seldom wondered
What became of those raindrops, whose first days of life were
X-rayed, poked, prodded—their sentences commuted to time served.
Yet, they will not remember this time when they were barely more than
Zygotes, as it should be. As if they were never there.

24 comments:

leonie said...

wow, that is amazing. it drew me in and held me there, from A all the way through Z.

FatCharlatan said...

Wow--this brought tears to my eyes. Poignant, tender...and it doesn't feel contrived at all. Nice work! :)

bostonerin said...

I loved it. So evocative--the images of the nurse and the mothers, not to mention the babies--were beautiful and painful and dead-on.

poet with a day job said...

This is amazing! I love what you've created out of the acrostic, they are hard to do because they end up taking you somewhere you didn't really expect to go. Aside of the craft, the story in the poem is wonderful and you've done a great job telling it. The language sparkles.

Molly Peacock did a great acrostic once. It remains one of my favorite poems. It is from her book Take Heart. Also, Sexton was great at acrostics and often did them on first and last letter of each line forming a sentence or word down the sides of each poem. Crazy!

Well done! I like exercises like this too because they keep the brain agile!

January said...

PWADJ, I didn't think of the ABC exercise as an acrostic poem, but you're absolutely right. Will check out the Peacock and Sexton poems. I didn't know she wrote them, so I'll have to go back through her collected works to see.

Cool.

paris parfait said...

Just wonderful - so many powerful images strung together in your poetic story.

Brian said...

Bravo, bravo. Not only for a very challenging idea, but the subject matter is incredible. It flows, it flows like love. :)

Great job, you should be very proud of your poem here.

DewyKnickers said...

I was just catching up on your posts about the conference. Sounds like you had a great time.

Your poem this week is a labor of love. The A to Z ties together an event that is an ongoing one, not just a quick snapshot of time.

Rose

xo

Emily said...

This is amazing! I can't believe you got such a fantastic poem out of using the whole alphabet. This is really a beautiful poem. My sister works in a NICU...I may need to send her this way.

Rethabile said...

You should suggest this as a prompt! Your poem is good, and if you hadn't announced the line beginning letters, I wouldn't have noticed. Bravo.

pepektheassassin said...

I agree with what's been said. This doesn't feel contrived, it held my attention, is well-crafted. I've done this sort of thing with names, etc, but never tried the whole alphabet!

Catherine said...

That's wonderful. The only other poet I have seen do this using all the letters of the alphabet was Karl Mead who wrote "Twentysix Abecedariums" - but I think yours runs much more smoothly and effectively. The only bit I remember from one of his was an ending about a teacher asking him what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he answered "Zorro, because a poet needs a mask"

Pauline said...

Like Rethabile, I got so caught up in the beauty of the imagery I didn't notice the form until someone else mentioned it. What a work of art this poem is in both form and content.

wendy said...

The difference betwwen an everyday poet...(me) and an exceptional one (you) Is the mastery of form..rather than the form mastering you. Well done!!

Nic Sebastian said...

Hey January, some very nice formulations here. Favorite bits:

tethered their well wishes like
Balloons to the backs of chairs,

they are held together by some order,
Exhausted by the urgency of being saved.

the tectonic plates of mother and child drifting together then apart.

My mother, whose
Voice is the sound of love becoming,

Thanks for posting! Cheers, Nic

Becoming Amethyst said...

wow ~ i didn't even noticed the whole a-z thing until the end ~ so it must've been artfully done :-)

brava!

chiefbiscuit said...

This is such a well-worked, superb poem - one of the best - definitely one for the book! I love how the descriptions flow - if you hadn't told me it was and abc poem, I'm sure I wouldn't have realised until after I'd read it. It is such a natural working.
I like the way you describe your mother in her professional role as well as she related to you in your own home. And zygotes ... well that's just a touch of genius!

Kamsin said...

Maybe it's just the English teacher in me but unlike everyone else I was slightly distracted by the abc thing, or maybe just the capitalisation of the initial word of each line(?). But having said that, it is an awesome poem very cleverly crafted and takes you into a glimpse of the workings of the baby unit.

Kimberley McGill said...

Of course, the content of the poem is very poignant. But even more than that, it takes skill to be able to write within such a structure and have it feel so natural to the reader that they are into the content of the poem rather than distracted by the form. Well done!

jim said...

What a tremendous abcderian, January (and I love that you threw in your name, you show-off you), and so skillfully layered.

jillypoet said...

Wow! I don't think I would have known on first read that each first letter of each line was in alphabet order, or at least not noticed, so caught up in the rythm and flow of this prose poem. There are so many great lines. What remains, for me, is this image: "Kind things that love cannot do: adjusting another woman’s breast,
Lifting the pillow under her head so the baby slips just above the
Mother’s ribs..."

Great poem!

Beaman said...

I like the idea of using the alphabet as a structural form. You've written your piece very well and also given me some inspiration. Very well done.

G said...

This is written so seamlessly - the alphabet/form doesn't intrude at all. I'm in awe. Many lovely phrases and images.

Rethabile said...

Came back to read it again, and to say "bravo" again, this time for the prize.

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