Poem of the Fortnight
This poem surprised me. I try to take a new poem each time I go to my twice-monthly critique group. A few weeks ago I was running out of time to come up with something new and pulled out a notebook. I found this poem, based on an exercise in Mary Kinzie’s “A Poet’s Guide to Poetry”: write in the voice of a relative reflecting on a holiday, in blank verse (iambic pentameter) and at least 20 lines long. I have never written poetry in anything but free verse, so it had been a challenge. The stresses (the rhythm of five sets of short-long beats per line) still aren’t perfect, but for a first effort it’s pretty satisfying, and I think too much allegiance to the beat can become sing-song-y.
I wrote it imagining what my mother might have thought on a busy holiday weekend in her little beach community.
The draft was dated May 29, 2005. My mother died on October 30 of that year. Thanks to my niece, Michelle, for tracking down the wonderful old photo of Mom on a North Sea beach, circa 1930.
Memorial Day, Flagler Beach, Florida, 2005
Nowhere to go. I am alone and wish
someone would visit, come and take me out.
My daughter phones. Your beach is near, she says,
so with my cane I make my way by slow
and labored steps.
The sun’s not set. It’s still
a good day for the beach as moms and dads,
babies, toddlers, teenage boys and girls chase
waves, while couples in love and not much else
embarrass me. I turn toward the pier,
see boys on surfboards, fishermen still out
as evening sunlight fades. I find a bench
to rest my aching legs, appreciate
the mildness of the breeze as seashore sounds
transport me back to beaches of my youth,
remembering the briny North Sea smell
and woolen swimsuits, playful times with friends.
If only I could swim here now in warm
Atlantic surf. But shaky legs betray
me on the sand, the sun is going down.
With cane in hand I leave the beach behind,
begin my solitary walk back home.