Penance #sol16

When you are not Catholic
and do not fast at Yom Kippur
Poetry must be your only form of
repentance.

So, here is a story:
When I was a child, no more
than five, I found a closed shell
on a beach. Cold and grey, it fit
inside the palm of my hands like
a prayer, clasped and closed tight.
I wanted nothing
more than to see
the animal inside.

Half in love with rebellion, I glanced
at my parents and turned my back,
took small sandy steps to the breakwater,
where stones older than me promised revelation.
I operated under the logic of a game:
rock, paper, scissors. Something will win.
The shell split with the perfect symmetry
of weather: one front giving way to the next.
Small broken pieces of shell fell onto my toes

and then I could not look
at what I had so desperately
wanted to see,
because the awful, stony silence that descended
cracked open my skin,
looked inside to see the ugly pink muscle
of my selfishness
and the terrible, sudden realization:

We can never be unmade.

 

 

slice of life

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10 thoughts on “Penance #sol16

  1. Your words shine light on so much that’s left in the shadows. So many lyrical phrases in this one. I especially enjoyed the lines “took small sandy steps to the breakwater, / where stones older than me promised revelation”…whoa. Beautiful and so much to meditate upon here. I love the symbol of the shell and the allegory of your curiosity and the dreadful recognition of the consequences of your actions. So powerful.

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  2. This is amazing. I love the line, “half in love with rebellion”. Isn’t that just how we feel as we grow? It says how I felt and I didn’t realize it til now.

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  3. Wow! What a vivid poem! What a poignant last stament. I found the following lines so poignant:
    “I found a closed shell

    on a beach. Cold and grey, it fit

    inside the palm of my hands like

    a prayer, clasped and closed tight.”

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  4. I love this line, “Half in love with rebellion.” You work such magic with finding the just-right words. I loved this poem. I’ve read it several times and keep finding more layers to it. That poetry serves as repentance is perhaps the best form of repenting–this poem is a powerful testament. Are you going to share with the students? You should. They need to remember that their teacher is an amazing poet.

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    1. Maya, thank you! I don’t mind if you use it. It’s a first draft, so let the students know it’s certainly not “polished”! Here is the prompt:

      Write an emotion/memory poem. Focus on a strong emotion (bitterness, anger, regret, joy, etc.) which comes from a personal memory. (This could be a real memory, an invented memory, or contain elements of both truth and fiction.)

      RULE: You are NOT allowed to use any words that actually identify emotion:
      – If your poem is about sadness, you cannot say words like sad, upset, lonely, etc.
      – If your poem is about love, you cannot say words like love, romance, sexy, etc.
      – If your poem is about anger, you cannot say words like angry, mad, frustrated, etc.

      YOUR GOAL IS TO GROUND YOUR EMOTIONS IN STRONG IMAGERY and FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE!

      Some options:
       Consider if you want to tell both the story of your memory and how you felt about it, or just the story.
       You could also explain how you feel now, if it’s the same or different, or keep the poem entirely in your memory.
       It could be in the past tense, as a memory is, or you could try the present tense

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