Sunday, October 18, 2020


When I went to Mass Saturday night, our priest talked about a balance of power between what we do with the gifts we've been given and the glory we are called to give to God for those gifts.  In many ways, the development of my chapbook, Portal of Light, has been like walking that tightrope.  When I began it, I called it "The Gate of Gratitude," because I realized that the first poem I'd written since my husband had died that wasn't overshadowed by grief was about "Serendipitous Expeditions" with my son to the Wild Animal Park in San Diego from the time he was quite small until he towered over me at 6'5" and the two of us celebrated my birthday there.  The poem then became "Portal" and later "Portal of Light." But the original gate became an arch which then opened into the idea of a ziggurat. That required an extensive amount of research into ziggurats and hanging gardens and pretty soon I was erecting my poetic ziggurat and planting it with trees and flowers until I had fallen in love with the vast construction watered by elaborate Archimedes screws and other inventions presumably of Sennacherib, who had apparently created a ziggurat for his favorite wife, although further research revealed that he was a brutal and terrifying leader. While I was creating this elaborate structure, I was also working on earlier sections about my children and what gradually became very clear was how many times one of them escaped serious injury or death. This led to the flowering of thankfulness even in the valley of the shadow of my beloved husband's death, for I had been left with a cloud of witnesses to his passage on earth and the goodness he exemplified both in our family and with everyone he knew. 

Then I discovered that my daughter Mary had the gift of literary criticism and was delighted to put it to use as I worked on the chapbook, and it grew from the first 7 pages to the current 47.  And that is despite the fact that I finally saw the point that Mary was making about the ziggurat not really belonging, even though it was the under-structure that I used to build the whole chapbook.  It may be a separate poem at some point, but when I finally took it out, I realized that the whole poem had taken on a life of its own and no longer needed the scaffolding that held it together in the beginning. It's analogous to my life. After Wes died, I tried to construct my world on the memories of all that we had done together, but I have gradually learned that now, in Chapter 2, I have to frame a new life and build a new home. It has the same foundation but I've slowly changed the colors, the functions of the rooms, the yard and garden, and time has been slowly creating a different landscape all around.

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