Friday, October 04, 2019

Poetry Friday

Loss is a Non-Negotiable Miracle

The cold front came through last night
scrubbing the sky of humidity
polishing Orion, the Pleiades, and Cassiopeia
to a glittering shine.
Loss is a non-negotiable miracle.

My hair, both parents,
a purse left in a shopping cart,
occasionally my temper,
frequently the punchline of a joke.
Loss is indeed non-negotiable
but the part about miracles is sometimes murky.

We read the news of the day
and non-negotiable seems more like
brutally inevitable
or else crushingly destructive
with a side of mercilessly inescapable
and miracles are nowhere to be found.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019 (flash draft)

My new set of Metaphor Dice (Erudite Expansion) have been waiting on my desk for a month, patiently watching me clear hurdle after hurdle, with no time or brain space left over for them. I cleared a huge hurdle last night -- my first night of parent conferences. Eleven down, fifteen to go, but the prep for all is complete.

It's been unseasonably record-breakingly HOT this past week, but the weather from Colorado and Montana finally arrived. The relief is palpably miraculous. On the other hand, the daily news seems like it can't get any worse, and then it does. As I look back on my draft, I'm not sure I like how it slides from such joy into such deep despair. Perhaps I need to flip the first and last stanzas, so that the flow is from broad, generalized angst, to specific, local joy. What do you think?

Cheriee is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Library Matters. I'll do my best to visit posts, but now that the parent conference hurdle is cleared, the 150 picture books that have been accumulating in my living room need to be read this weekend!

Happy Friday! Happy Poetry!


  1. Oh wow, Mary Lee - great work with the dice (I too lose the punchline of the joke pretty much all the time!) and also what fun reading you have ahead of you. Thank you for sharing! xo

  2. A challenging metaphor, Mary Lee! Nothing about the news seems non-negotiable to feels like a million moving parts. We are certainly in need of some big miracles, but there are small ones tucked in there all over. One option could be to keep the first two stanzas (maybe in opposite order?) and write a third that addresses "loss" as a non-negotiable miracle in terms of time, in that "Now" is always lost, but another miraculously appears. Just a thought!

  3. I found this so powerful. I like the way you included temper in the list of things you've lost, and your use of murky with miracles. The last stanza hits hard.

  4. Love how you've put what many of us are feeling into words. Enjoy your picture book weekend. I must admit 150 sounds rather daunting, but still fun!

  5. I would flip it - or add another stanza. I cannot believe you come up with all of that from just the dice.

    Right now not writing general topic poetry is a saving grace; nothing I write that isn't SPECIFIC is deeply depressing just now. I do like this, though.

    I'm voting for another stanza. Maybe circle back to small, specific joys - those are the things that hold us together long enough to do what we must to reset the larger picture.

  6. It does end up dark, with no negotiation in sight, obviously. If you flip it, it does offer hope, but still, I like it, sad truth, for now anyway. Have fun with those picture books. There are some gems that have come out recently.

  7. I like the idea of flipping the first and last stanzas. It still ends with loss.

  8. Wow, all that from word dice! I would flip the stanzas, as you suggest, but that's because I'm just unbreakably hopeful. :)

  9. Agree with the switching of first and last stanzas. It takes you from the real to the possible....and, I need that. We all need that. Such a frustrating time but great poem!

  10. I think I agree with the flipping of stanzas. I like how this poem is reflective of your voice, so many times hopeless, yet always turning toward hope. Those metaphor dice can really pack a punch and push you to write things you never thought you'd write.

  11. What a challenging metaphor!

    I'm going to agree with Tanita Davis above. One thing that I absolutely loved about the first stanza was a sense of cold, crystalline distance. Stars are so beautiful in a look-but-can't-touch kind of way. And, while the loss of the humidity was blessed(!), the reader/science-geek me connects stars to a non-negotiable creative destruction on an immense but distant scale. I wonder if there is a way to zoom back out again on an additional stanza and play with that? I have no idea how, and only really have a gut-level instinct to urge you to try.

    I wouldn't want to lose the despair, though. It seems an appropriate emotion to bring out and put into words.

  12. I love this poem either way. Your deft weaving of so many losses, large and small, make the truth of your metaphor all the more powerful.

    Good luck with all those picture books!

  13. I love that first stanza with its constellation polishing! I think you could swap the last stanza for the first, but either way it works. Your poem was the final push into my pushing "purchase" on the metaphor dice that have been lingering in my Amazon cart.

  14. Strong poem Mary Lee, I don't think it needs flipping–that first stanza of yours and these lines take us to a miraculous place to ponder for a moment…
    "The cold front came through last night
    scrubbing the sky of humidity
    polishing Orion, the Pleiades, and Cassiopeia
    to a glittering shine."
    Thanks, and good luck with your reading…

  15. I like your poem as it is Mary. There are moments when life is not always hopeful and I'm ok with this. I think it makes hope, when it does return, even more glorious. Your poem today reminds me of the one Bob introduced me to, One Art by Elizabeth Bishop.

  16. I actually love the idea of flipping the first and last stanzas -- the fact that that's an option, that it works so well, is a miracle in and of itself.

  17. Your poem is spot on. Despite the onslaught of news that veers ever more toward disaster, I am trying to find moments of local joy. That mixture of loss and miracle seems to be the stuff of life. Good luck with the rest of parent conferences!

  18. Let me start with this paragraph: My new set of Metaphor Dice (Erudite Expansion) have been waiting on my desk for a month, patiently watching me clear hurdle after hurdle, with no time or brain space left over for them. Hurdles are seeming monumental these days and I have to whittle away at them in slow mo. Good luck. I would suggest flipping your stanzas for the flow you suggest. Loss and miracles-that is happening by me too.

  19. Have a good weekend! Enjoy the reading!

  20. I think your "flash draft" is a much better label than my "instadraft" (and someday I'll write my essay about how the concept of instant anything and the invention of the lightbulb were the first step on our road to self-destruction (but at least the road was well-lighted)). No, don't flip. We don't always need a happy ending. Look at the leaves--their loss is non-negotiable, and it makes the miracle In Hardwood Groves:

    poet Robert Frost
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    In Hardwood Groves - Poem by Robert Frost
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    The same leaves over and over again!
    They fall from giving shade above
    To make one texture of faded brown
    And fit the earth like a leather glove.

    Before the leaves can mount again
    To fill the trees with another shade,
    They must go down past things coming up.
    They must go down into the dark decayed.

    They must be pierced by flowers and put
    Beneath the feet of dancing flowers.
    However it is in some other world
    I know that this is the way in ours.

  21. oops sorry for the invisible junk in internet poem-paste


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