Wednesday, July 3, 2019


One morning, I was listening to The Writer's Oasis, Jennifer Louden's podcast on writing and creativity,  and dutifully scribbling away in answer to one of her prompts, when a line popped into my mind about my son.  It didn't sound very poetic and I almost ignored it, but I finally wrote it down on a separate piece of paper. Then I thought of a few other things I could say and slowly "Serendipitous Expeditions" began to appear at the tip of the pen. Each one was a different time when we went to the Wild Animal Park in San Diego when he was growing up, until the most recent visit when we went there for my birthday, discovered a new outdoor restaurant and both of us were old enough to have a drink.
When I looked back at my first version, I was amazed to see how much stayed in the final revision. Once I started sketching those memories, little details etched in a corner of my mind appeared on paper like those children's drawings that reveal themselves as you wash over them with a wet brush. When the incidents were in the correct order, I devised the links, and then set about crafting the rhyme scheme. Much to my son's dismay, my rhymes are seldom in a regular abab pattern. The last word of every line has another line somewhere in the poem with an ending that rhymes, though it might be an inexact or slant rhyme.  Occasionally, it is even the title that rhymes with another line ending. I worked my way into this structure over many years of formal verse, blank verse and free verse (after a semester studying T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land) and gradually found my voice in the way I do it now.  This particular poem gave me a challenge in trying to find a rhyme for "taller" in the fourth stanza until I changed the first stanza with the final lines,
"We watched the tiger cubs
     grow up & bound about"
"We often walked at the Wild Animal Park
     for exercise, but accidentally
     would happen upon the new Lemur Walk
     where we could almost catch their ringed tails,
     or watch the tiger cubs prowl or sprawl or
     bound and pounce with feline rush."

and when I decided on "sprawl or" I gave an inner crow of delight.
After I finished the final revision, I also realized that this was the first poem I had written since my beloved husband died that had no shadow of grief over it.
It was simply a smile of joy over the moments in 25 years where little surprises shared with my son brought unexpected bursts of happiness at the time and when I recalled them years later.  The thankfulness I experienced opened a gate to a previously invisible path through the darkness of grief to landscapes where the sun made its way through the tangle of trees and danced on the green grass of hope. That eventually led to a poem that started as "The Gate of Gratitude" which metamorphosed into a chapbook called "Portal." But that is another, much longer, story. 

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