For the first time, a poem of mine has been tweaked and polished and mulled over and re-worked until it became a new one altogether. To see the earlier version, go to the May 4, 2013 entry, called “A Poet-Lady Thinks About Her Work.”
It all began before daybreak one morning at this time of year. As I stood in the church’s doorway I saw the street lamps in the fog all down the street. The halo of a street lamp has another name, nimbus, and I thoroughly enjoyed rolling the word around in my mind as I worked on this fall poem.
Now, as you will see, it is not longer serious or somber, my nimbus poem. Yesterday I gave it a new name.
What Happens When Preachers Write Poems
From the big doors at the top of the church steps
I look out into the dark, and breathe the mild air
made even softer by wet leaves. All down the street
is a row of lights and the enormous nimbus of each,
those nearer appearing caught in the branches
of the stateliest of trees.
At first I take it as illustrative
of what a poet does: words written, stepping out
from one illumination into the next, all bearing
the weight of their etymologies. Later, though,
it comes down to delight, as God watches over
each of us making our way home in the dark.
Then, “Really? Illustrative?”says God.
People who have more than one pet sometimes say they have a zoo. There actually is a small zoo about an hour’s drive from where I live. It began some years ago when a family acquired a zebra.
One Sunday afternoon at this time of year a friend and I were on our way home from a church gathering. We stopped so that I could take a picture over the pasture fence—of the zebra with a donkey at its side.
Then my life changed, with the news that my sister in Chicago had a medical emergency. I sat beside her hospital bed and, as she slept through most of those several difficult days, I distracted myself by writing “The Zebra’s Friend.” It was my first attempt at the syllabic form, which has an equal number of syllables to the line. A poem that looks like free verse may have a structure not obvious to the reader but helpful to the poet.
“The Zebra’s Friend” appears in a small chapbook with the same name, published in 2008. I chose it as the title poem–not that it was my best among the poems I had written by then. I thought the book’s title needed to be visually interesting. This was before I began to notice animal prints and zebra stripes everywhere!
If you enjoy reading the poem, go back to the home page of this website and click on About This Book, to see the accompanying photograph and a sampler from the book. You may press the play button to hear my voice reading the poems listed there.
More importantly, today, tell yourself that you are who you are. And smile.
The Zebra’s Friend
The zebra grazing beneath
some trees in a pasture not
far from Monroe, Nebraska
cares little that he is an
object of curiosity
to motorists passing by.
Long ago he decided–
and his faithful companion
the short-legged donkey in
all solid colors agrees–
we are who we are, whether
clad in ordinariness or
in more dazzling apparel.