Monday, August 29, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #68

In which Your Humble Blogger shares an odd truth behind today's poem:

"My Grandmother Decided to Go"

My grandmother decided to go
To a hospital close to home when
It was time. And even the machines,
For all that they could do to suggest
Peace within the body, couldn't speak;
They lacked words to explain. The doctors
Had little more to offer.

The resigned Calumet, its grey skin
Of clouds and oil drawn into wrinkles
By long years of industrious work.
The road I took to the hospital
Was the same one my grandmother drove
Every night when she worked at Woolworth's.
But I was coming from school that day.
And she – just wasn't.

There were no roads
That could pretend to cover the miles
Between my grandmother's hands and mine
Then, no monitors to interpret
The thoughts relinquished between each breath.
There was a handful of family,
And the nurses, and my grandmother,
Just her, getting ever closer to

* * *

I had to change the format of this poem a little when cutting and pasting it today. As it's written in the notebook, there are no breaks between stanzas, and the opening line of every stanza except for the very first is indented so that, visually speaking, it lines up with the end of the line before it. This was done to convey the fact that this poem is mostly written in syllabics, nine syllables per line this time. However, while the last line of each stanza that you see above combines with the line following it to make nine syllables total, it didn't make sense in terms of the narrative to have all of those thoughts running straight from one line to the next. Basically, the way the story's told in this poem, it cried out for stanzas or some kind of visual transition. And the way it's laid out in my notebook conveys the idea of nine-syllable lines better than this type out version does (though maybe this reads better, I don't know).

Why didn't I just indent the damn lines in this post, then? Because I seem to be a little stupid with Blogger. In the past, I've gone to the "Edit HTML" tab and inserted the code for a space, and when I've previewed the posts, they looked correct, but then I publish the post and the spaces at the beginning of the lines go poof. Any thoughts from anyone more Blogger-literate?

Oh, and the last line of the poem disregards any structure whatsoever. Ending on one syllable simply seemed right.

None of this touches on "the odd truth" behind this poem. The odd truth is this: It's very much a work of fiction. As real as it felt when I was writing it, the story is just that -- a story. Yes, there are elements of truth in it; my paternal grandmother did work at Woolworth's, and I was in college when my maternal grandmother died and I did go home from school for her wake and funeral. But I think this poem is a case of a situation that I heard described once: Often, it's harder to write about what you want to be true than what is true. Doing so, however, usually produces the better writing.

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