And now for something completely different…

A poem, because I’m in that kind of mood, and because if you’ve not read Louise Glück, you ought to:

The Gift

Lord, You may not recognize me
speaking for someone else.
I have a son. He is
so little, so ignorant.
He likes to stand
at the screen door, calling
oggie, oggie, entering
language, and sometimes
a dog will stop and come up
the walk, perhaps
accidentally. May he believe
this is not an accident?
At the screen
welcoming each beast
in love’s name, Your emissary.

* From Louise Glück, Descending Figure


  1. BadaBing

    It’s good, but it’s a lot like most modern poetry. There’s no organizing principle to the poem, no form. Nevertheless, it reminds me of when my daughters were little. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Tony

    I don’t know about the lack of organizing principle or form. It doesn’t have a rhyme or meter, but were it a paragraph we wouldn’t say it lacked an organizing principle; we would say that the organizing principle is in the themes of hope and fear and a parent’s love that transcends love of self.

    The form, meanwhile, is in word choice and line length, which although not bound by meter and rhyme, clearly lend themselves to the tone of the poem, no? She doesn’t call him “innocent,” for example (which would have lent itself to sentimentality), but “ignorant,” indicating that there is a knowledge of heartbreak and disappointment beyond that door, knowledge which has not yet tainted his vision of the world. The use twice of two forms of the word “accident,” meanwhile (as well as the word “beast”), connote a mother’s fear for what awaits beyond that screen door. Even emphasizing that it is a screen has a purpose, because what does a screen do, but protect and shield and filter?

    The line breaks in mid-sentence underscore the intimacy: this is a whispered conversation between the writer and God. Meter and breaks based on sentence or phrase ends would formalize it, reducing the intimacy. Placing phrases like “so little, so ignorant,” or “At the screen” on their own lines, meanwhile, reinforce the fragility of the little one she is praying for. The first and last lines, finally, speak to God, capturing something of our relationship with him — we speak to him, but it is these earthly matters in which we work out that relationship, such that we are constantly turning from him to the world and then back again.

    Bad free verse poetry is certainly guilty of disorganization, but good free verse has to build it without relying on meter and rhyme. It’s there just as in a mathematical proof or a well-argued position; we simply have to search a bit harder to see its outline.

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