Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Sliver Poem - #TeacherPoets Challenge 2, Week One Assignment

This first official poetry challenge from Christopher Lehman's #TeacherPoets online workshop got right to the heart of one of my personal stumbling blocks as a writer - writing about a pebble instead of a whole beach.

He challenges us to define big emotions using small moments - like Nancie Atwell does in her "Write About A Pebble" lesson from Lessons That Change Writers.

My first attempt at this went wildly out of control. I desperately needed to release the emotion of a moment of great vulnerability that had happened a few weeks before, but it was so complex that I kept adding bits of the history surrounding the moment to clarify all the nuances...blah, blah, blah.

It took sitting down again, weeks later, with time and determination on my side, to re-start that poem.  Even so, this is merely a first draft with some minor tinkering and revision.  I feel as though there may be more to cut out, but I also feel as though I've hacked off all the shooter vines of the surrounding history and focused in on a single moment that embodies this  huge emotion for me.

She Threw It All Away
by Jessica Wisniewski

It seemed to weigh down her hand.
But everything does, these days.
The thin, winter tree limb of her arm extends,
Lengthy, so frighteningly fragile
Out to the twiggy, alien grace of her fingers, clutching the bottle.

She drops it in the trashcan
And instead of the light, hollow pong of empty plastic
There is a dull, sloshy thud of a muffled church bell
When she casts off the nearly full nutritional supplement shake,
Her body’s nourishment, foregone.

In a fleeting moment of remorse,
She clutches her shirt hem, nervous in the face of her rebellion,
Expression trembling between two worlds.
The ghost of her old self, full and joyful,
Scared of her own defiant act.

But a second face is not sorry.
This new mien is marked by jagged angles and shadow.
A demon’s smirk twists her lips and dulls her eyes.
He dares me to say something to her, anything.
The sinister fiend of ED brashly extending his middle finger.

Lava rises, heating my skin, speeding my heart.
The mama bear inside me rears up ready to bellow and battle,
But at what? I cannot roar away the parasite
Without marring her, the already bruised child on which the demon feeds.
I cannot untangle her from this puppet master’s strings with fire.

Instead, I retrieve her true, precious smile from my memories,
A beloved talisman to clutch as I prepare the prayers of exorcism.
But even as I ready my gentle warfare
She turns and walks away too soon, leaving me deflated, sick with stymied words,
Wishing I could bear this burden for her.

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