Compulsion

A poem by Meg Sorick

Symmetry and straight lines,
All the light switches closed.
The knives pointed
In the same direction
The dishes must be white.
And there must be an even number.
Or a set with one in the middle
Just so, nothing less is acceptable

Take the spoon from the front
If you please, there’s no other way
To make sure they’re all used equally.
The shelves are not full.
I must fill the shelves.
Fold the clothes and stack
Keep the piles from tipping.

Balance is essential,
But neither temperance or sensibility.
This relentless striving for perfection
Pushes to the very edge of the abyss,
Where the only comfort is in a bottle.

Too much is out of my control.
I must control all that I can.

*Not autobiographical, header image artwork by me.

For the love of beautiful language…

[edited from a post I wrote in 2016]

My writer friends, do you ever find yourself using the same or similar words and phrases over and over again? It’s inevitable. We tend to write the way we talk. Most of us use a characteristic phraseology that makes up our everyday language. Our speech may be reflective of the region we live in, our ethnic origins or even our age. While these peculiarities lend color and flavor to our writing, even they can get repetitive after a while. It will be especially evident if we write longer fiction pieces or novels. What can we do to add variations to the words we pen?

Some of my earliest writing was in the form of poetry. That is not a coincidence. Poetry is introduced to us in the cradle by means of nursery rhymes and bedtime lullabies. As we grow and mature into our teen years and beyond, often music becomes a huge influence. Thus the lyrics of songs speak to us the way nothing else can. Many musicians like Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Patty Smith, Joni Mitchell, and Bruce Springsteen are considered to be not just song writers but poets as well.

Anthropologically, poetry in the form of song or saga has been used to help the balladeer or the skald keep the oral history of a people alive through story telling. It is some of the earliest writing ever discovered. The Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, dates back to 2000 BCE. Another Sumerian text, The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, may be even older than that.

What am I getting at, you ask? Poetry composition can be a delightful way to hone our skills in using creative vocabulary and illustative terminology. “But, I don’t want to be a poet,” you say. Shut up, yes you do. Here’s why…

I do enjoy writing poetry, but it is not my main avenue of expression. I am primarily a fiction writer. However, composing poetry demands that we paint a picture with our words, if you will. Putting things into verse, even if the verse doesn’t rhyme, pushes you to use descriptive and colorful terms that you wouldn’t use in day-to-day speech.

In describing my front lawn, for example, you could simply state, “the lawn was full of dead dandelions,” and that would be true! Before you write that ask, “What do those dandelions remind me of?” “What idea do they conjure?” They are dead, so how about headstones in a graveyard? They are skinny, so how about emaciated refugees fleeing a disaster or famine? They have tufts of thin, white spores… does that remind you of hair or clouds or even foam at the crest of a wave? Now write it like this, “Like a wave of fleeing refugees, the dandelions marched across the expanse of grass.”

I didn’t write a poem, but I wrote a poetic sentence. Obviously, a little of that can go a long way, too. Every sentence does not have to be metaphorical in nature. But in the right place, it can transform ordinary writing into extraordinary writing. I encourage you, if you have not attempted to write poetry before now, give it a try. Follow other poets here on WordPress; there are a multitude of talented poets to choose from. Learn the different styles and structures. Perhaps you will find you want to be a poet, after all!

Memory

A stack of letters bound by ribbon
Flower petal soft and old
And a box of sepia photographs
Of people she doesn’t know

But I’m supposed to keep them
Safe from mold and decay
Preserved for posterity
Instead of thrown away

Eggshell frail and delicate
Memories peculiarly her own
When one generation passes
Like a wisp of smoke, they’re gone

*As I clear out old photos and keepsakes that my mother has been carrying with her from place to place, I realize how very disconnected we can be from the generations of family who preceded us. My mom has photos of family members we don’t recognize and letters from my Grandmother’s cousins from Scotland. We’re trying to organize it in such a way as to keep as much as possible. Maybe someday I will research our family tree and these would be nice to have to match up with the names. Meanwhile, I’ve been taking photos of some of these old documents with my phones just to preserve them. And all the myriad slides are being converted to digital format so my entire childhood isn’t lost or impossible to view. I spent a good part of my day yesterday wandering down memory lane.