“Broken Mirror” by Edward Van Helgen @ deviantart.com
For quite a few years now, one of my favorite poetry sites online has been POETSONLINE (see http://poetsonline.org). This site introduced me to presenting poetry online for others to read and it also taught me what fun it can be to write to a specific prompt. The site’s administrator, Ken Ronkowitz, has several blogs, several of which focus on poetry. His prompts are always very well thought out, amply illustrated with poetic examples, they never fail to offer a good challenge to both an experienced writer or someone new to writing poetry. This past summer, Ken presented an interesting prompt that began with Carl Sandburg’s poem, “Mag”:
“The prompt this time out was to write a poem about a negative wish (or wishes) – a wish to undo, wishes that change the past. Those are the wishes that pull you right back to the present and have you thinking about the future.”
The poems written in response to the prompt were published this fall. I wanted to share mine here on my own poetry blog to reach a broader audience. I think the problem is poor self-esteem and distorted sense of self-worth isn’t uncommon in women in America. I struggled with it all my life and just when I think I’m in control, something might happen and make me backslide. I’d say that 97% of the time, my rational self is in control and keeps that negative thinking in check. I do regret having wasted so much of my life feeling inadequate or not worthy of being valued in so many ways. I know I’m not alone. I hope any person reading this poem will think about it and someone they know who struggles with this issue and perhaps, do something to help her (or him) learn to embrace their own self-worth.
Self-portrait in colored pencil
If you’d like to listen to the poem, click on the link below and wait a few seconds for the audio to begin.
I Wish I Could Undo…
All the time
I wasted waiting for life to happen,
As if there would be a perfect moment
When the stars aligned just so,
Or my sails swiftly caught the wind,
And the ivory moon was full.
I thought it would just happen.
All the time
I wasted loathing who I am:
Never good enough, smart enough,
Thin enough, clever enough,
And if that weren’t already enough,
I somehow felt that if I said it enough,
I really might be transformed,
Emerging a butterfly and not a moth.
I would be smarter, beautiful, wittier,
And I’d dance with agile grace.
At last it became quite apparent:
I would never be ‘enough’ for me.
All that time
I wasted wishing myself away.
If only I could undo all of that,
And take back time…and use it well.
I’d whisper a simple incantation
To my younger self:
You were enough, more than enough
In your very own way.
Apple in Mirror
First published on PoetsOnline.org under “Negative Wishes,” August 2014
A friend and former teaching colleague of mine, Patti Hardee Donnelly, is a superb photographer whose work I’ve long admired. A small offshoot of her photography has been her finding small HEARTS in many forms in nature and in life. I am often surprised, frequently amused, and always delighted by what Patti comes across in her daily life. This summer she posted this beautiful picture of an old tree stump she came across very early one morning on her daily run. I was mesmerized by the beauty of it, the color and texture and most of all by the image I saw within the heart. I know that if I had been walking that path that morning, I would have totally missed this beautiful creation of nature.
Thank you, Patti, for your amazing photo and talent. It immediately inspired me to write this poem, which is dedicated to you.
I’ve recorded an audio of me reading this poem. To hear it, simply click on the link below. It will take a few seconds before it begins.
Here is my reading of the poem, Back to Edinburgh:
Back to Edinburgh
We walk through the hidden streets of this city, The second day of spring and the wind gusts hard. People stop and wince, cupping their ears for warmth. The news said blustery winds up to 25 mph,
And it feels as if we might tumble down the street.
Looking for simple woolen hats to pull down
Over our frigid heads, we stop at a Royal Mile shop. I select gray, and you opt for black. I am grateful That your good felt hat is safe back at the hotel.
The street is so rich in history that it feels as if It could reach out and grab us by the arms, Pulling us down a small wynd or narrow close
That has a story to share,
And in the late afternoon gloaming, We might be wind swept and turned around Into some other time.