Poetic Forms Winner: Lament
Last week we looked at how to write a Lament, which is a very open form where the writer explores a feeling of loss or guilt. It’s a very emotion driven form of poetry, which I personally think is the hardest to write because it’s difficult to express those emotions without making the persona of the poem seem self-contained. Let’s see how our winner tackled this!
Being the only entrant this week, Deanie is automatically our winner, but the position is no less deserved for the effort and talent which has gone into creating this poem. It’s not always easy to respond to a challenge and poems often go through several drafts before they reach something beautiful, but you know when it’s this good the first time that it’s going to go far:
It’s funny how sickness seeps into the body.
How it can sink lines deep into the hollow face
To leave a shattered carcass of the beauty that once was.
You were never healthy, never whole
I suppose that’s what happens to those
with a darker background than the night sky.
But you were always smiling, like a guiding light
That shot across that darkness. Not the moon, no,
For a moon is steady, silent and secretive.
You were a gliding star that did not light up my universe
But taught me how to brighten my own.
So now you can see how it’s hard
when someone you’ve followed like a little lost lamb
starts to crumble and fold into himself
and then drift away on the wind,
as charred burnt pieces of ash before your eyes.
I wonder what you thought as you walked out of the building
with its white painted walls and nose peeling smell
of death and life and what you became.
How your thoughts must have whirled when you knew
That you could count the numbers of days left
on the nails of your shriveled fingertips.
I clung to your chest and refused to let go
But the poison was stronger, and wrapped itself around your limbs
until there was nothing you could do but absorb it.
It turned your laughter to hacking coughs
that splattered ink from your throat and into my crying heart.
It turned the nights we’d curl up on the sofa together
and use our warmth to shelter us from the dark and the monsters
into me shivering in the pale moonlight
leaving me wondering whether I was truly safe
Or hugging the monster as I stretched my arms around you.
I heard the retching in the bathroom that you tried to mute.
And you would gag until you choked up your sanity, and your lungs,
then your blood, and love, and life and everything you had
until the tubes were what kept you awake
and the touch of your lovers hand on yours.
She cried as if her tears could wash it all away
but no, hers didn’t. Mine didn’t. Nothing would.
You were still eaten away.
That drive down the roads as people removed their hats
and they crossed their bodies as if we carried a curse.
I don’t think broken hearts and a single body
could cause so much attention. But it did.
And I never saw your face again. I didn’t want to see it limp,
lifeless and lost. I wanted to remember the sitting on your knee
and the laughter, and the jokes and the memories,
before the brewing storm of cancer came
and took it all away.
They put you in the cold ground, and sang and cried and sang again.
It wasn’t that much different from when you were alive.
I was tired of all the sadness and the pain and the condolences.
Did anyone really understand?
I still put those roses on your grave before they were buried under all the mud,
so you would be forgotten and we could move on.
You would move on too – from a memory to a body, from a body
to dried bone.
I still come and visit. I dig a little, and slide in all my letters
that I wrote to you throughout the year. You should stay updated,
no matter how long your body is past its sell by date.
I leave a gift, or a kiss, or a laugh. And even though all those ago,
I was tired of singing and crying and only seeing blotting black.
But I softly sing, I softly sigh, and then I begin
What Deanie does in this piece, is she takes all of those emotions and she isn’t afraid to belt them out at full volume, but she doesn’t drown the reader in them either. Instead, she uses her imagery to take the reader on a journey, in and out of this hospital, then down the road with the body to the graveyard and at last to the grave. The reader is able to literally follow alongside the persona through these stages of grief and to connect with them at every level.
There are some images which really stick with you, long after reading the poem: the concept that hugging a dying person is hugging the monster that it taking them away; the burying of the letters in the grave so even then the loved one can remain updated. These details make this a very unique and touching poem.
Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have suggestions for improvement and I think Deanie could be a little more sparing with her words. I’ll take the beginning (minus the first line which was just beautiful) as an example and show where I might have taken a few words out:
How it can sink lines into the hollow face
To leave a shattered carcass of the beauty that was.
You were never healthy, never whole;
that’s what happens to those
with a darker background than the night sky.
I can’t say enough how beautiful this piece is. Thank you very much for sharing, Deanie!
** Image owned by Enokson at Flickr.