January 28th, 2011


Stepping Toward the Brink-- of Paper

Last Friday I posted a poem with a bird in it that I took out then put back in, raising some fuss among my fellow or sister bird-lovers and writers. The poem was about the need to watch every word, um, like a hawk. This week I was inspired to write about the kinder moments of writing. It’s wise to question everything, but first we have to find our way in, and if that’s through birds, who do so much for keeping a homebody sane in January, that’s great. Especially when the chickadees or woodpeckers are both close to what I might see outside the window with just enough magic or metaphor to take me somewhere new. The trick is to show them from in new lights: maybe from beneath the wings, or focus on their clever feet or maze of tracks in snow. I try to get a bird accurate, then tilt a wing to an impossible angle, choose a color nature never saw, improvise enough so the bird can break through paper.

In the poem below I’m not trying to suggest my work is anywhere near to the greatness of Charlotte’s Web or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Just that I’m following a method that any of us might of stepping from reality to the fantastic, or what we know to what we don’t, toward our own Maine farms or Narnias.

                                Under the Whispers

E.B. White fed real pigs and mucked his old barn,
studied the anatomy of spiders and their birthing habits
before he made Wilbur and Charlotte speak so we’d believe every word.

C. S. Lewis played as a boy in his grandparent’s wooden wardrobe.
He gave us the feel of old fur coats, the scent of mothballs,
before Lucy stepped through pine boughs onto snow.

I follow a real girl hurrying over cobblestones by brick townhouses,
until by the frog pond in the Public Garden her small hand casts
a shadow, pointing towards something always there, but never seen.

 Jeannine Atkins, all rights reserved

Please visit Elaine, who’s hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at  Wild Rose Reader.