April 12, 2016

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

National Poetry Month Issue 19

National Poetry Month spring break continues.

We've had an "Iced Latte" with Shirley Brewer, gone on a family outing with Sonia Linebaugh, and today we are at the beach with Barbara Westwood Diehl -- all Maryland poets. All three have work in the anthology, Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems.

In today's poem, Barbara looks at something we often try to overlook: vacation traumas. My memories are filled with them -- my brother's hand closed in a hotel door (he still has the pins in his fingers), my friend Pam coming home from Ocean City with the worst black eye you've ever seen (her youngest daughter was the accidental culprit).

Even when the family in the poem moves their  beach towels away from an upsetting scene, and the poem moves on, the family -- and the reader -- can't forget what has been seen.

by Barbara Westwood Diehl
We are on vacation. We migrate every morning toward the shore,
scattered, at first, like kites pulled through the sky on taut strings,
then reeled in, an embroidery of beach umbrellas on sand.

Every morning, we pull toward the ocean. We are refugees
stumbling through sand, carrying babies and beach blankets.
Planes pull banners through the sky, telling us where to go.

There are boats, but not for us. We watch them far away,
the sailboats and fishing boats, the cruise ships and cargo ships.
They are our horizon. When boats come close, we wave at them.

We do this every day. We walk among the living and the dead
the ocean leaves for us. The waves have swept a sea turtle to shore,
fearsome even in death, like a long sunken ship raised from the deep.

We cannot look away. There are always the claws and shells,
the empty eyes of fish, but the turtle is whole. The great head
lolls like a grandfather's. The arms and legs dig like a child's.

Read the rest of the poem at Tarpaulin Sky.

Writing Exercise:
You know you have a vacation story. We all do.

The temptation is to put the surprise or turn -- in "Migration" it's spotting the dead turtle -- at the end of the poem. For today's poem, though, let's avoid ending with a bang. Put your dark moment closer to the middle of the poem. Let the people in the poem try to get on with their holiday. See what happens.

No comments: