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Take a second breath for Writing to Healing and Peace

December 27, 2012

Take a second breath, Writing for Healing and Peace
We Write Poems

This is the day We Write Poems would normally post a next new writing prompt to elicit your writing intent and craft. Now we could say, it’s the holidays and some people are otherwise engaged, traveling or time with family or just taking a rest, and that is to some measure surely true. However that’s not really why we’re continuing our open prompt.

Why do we write? Why do we continue to write, day after day, year after year? We’re sure there are varied reasons enough. Yet what’s the reason underneath all of those? What is the merit of self expression? We’re doing more than simply writing to ourselves, listening merely to hear the sound of our own voices here. What is the difference we might wish for the difference of our individual lives to make within the whole of our greater family?

When I answer this question from my own heart, it is honestly, simply, I am not done with attending the loss we felt from those many lives lost so recently, nor where such “disregard” as that ripples over and over around our world. Already it is becoming yesterday’s news, as if there’s nothing more to say, as if we’d rather forego the discomfort of continuing to look and ask more of ourselves.

Words carry weight.  Words embody radiance.  You know, you understand how we each have boundaries of discomfort we can be reluctant to address. This week, if you seek a challenge as a writer, look for those lines upon the map of your own personal sensibilities. Can we ask questions that are uncomfortable to acknowledge within ourselves?  What questions have you asked yourself?

It is not a matter of obsession, rather dedication. Use your words as you would stone and lumber to build a home, as you would food to prepare a meal, as you would a lullaby to tender a child into sleep.

So take a breath.  Be at ease.  Take a look.  Then write.

       Expression is the path we trust.

As last week, this is an open writing cycle. Write when you want. Respond right here to this post. There’s no “next Wednesday” due date or place. Same no-rules as last week still applies. And thank you for joining this journey with us.

We have here two pieces of writing to share with you. First is an essay by Marian Veverka that is open, even somewhat raw in a very personal sense, and for precisely that reason beautiful in its expression. We are honored to share it with you. Second is a poem of my own, that as they say, landed on me, the first in response for me here. ~neil
The Innocence of their Voices

On a gray December morning in 1958, I rode with the members of our car pool to my job at Erie Army Depot.  My friend Marcia and I rode in the back, two men, neighbors, in the front. .  That morning the news was bad.  Reporters were still on the scene of a fire that had ravaged the school of Our Lady of the Angels in Chicago IL, where  92 children and 3 teachers had died.  After the news program, the disc jockey introduced a new recording and we listened for the first time to the Harry Simeone Chorale’s version of a Slavic folk carol called “The Little Drummer Boy.”  The chorale was composed of childrens voices.  When we heard that bright, hopeful innocence of the very young,  Marcia and I looked at each other and we began to cry.

Fifty years have come and gone.  We lost one of our daughters.  My husband has also passed away as have all of our older relatives.   Wars have been declared , taking their tragic toll of young lives.  Our country has not been the same since the murder of President Kennedy.  Our local landscape has also changed.  Woods and open meadows have given way to “McMansions” and condominiums.  Our church no longer has a school.  Some of the local churches have closed their doors, merging with those in near-by towns.  More public schools have merged.  The population of our rural area is now a majority of older people, although some young families from cities have moved here seeking a way to make a living from the land. 

The death of a child is always tragic.  You never get over it.  Never.  How any one could deliberately kill  anyone, but especially kill a child is beyond comprehension.  The young man responsible , who also killed himself, was obviously deranged.  Fifty years ago, he would have been in a hospital.  (“Insane asylum” was the word used then.) That might not have cured his illness, but it would have kept the public a little safer. 

Because it is only a few weeks to Christmas, the song “The Little Drummer Boy” is played on the radio.  The version where the children’s choir sings still tears at my heart. I cried fifty years ago.  I cry now.  Children are still innocent.  They still should not die. Whether by terrible accident or by war or deliberate murder – the very young should be protected,  they should not be killed.

If, in 1958, I could have had a glimpse of this Christmas season, 2012, I would be very sad.  Not just for the little ones who lost their lives, and for their parents who will miss them every day of their lives, but for all the dreams we had of our new post-war world.  How could things have become not better, but worse?  Why do people feel they need guns to protect themselves?  Why are so many families struggling to support their children?  What could be more important than the care and safety of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens?

Perhaps that is one of the reasons we feel the deaths of those innocent children so keenly.  Because we know there is nothing we can do to keep more children from dying too young, too soon.  Because our way of life that once we took so much pride in is being eaten away and we don’t know how to stop it from happening.  Because we have awakened to the fact that there is not enough food, or shelter on this earth for all the people that live here.  Our children look to us to take care of them.  In their innocence, they trust us, all of us.   Listen to them.  Listen to their voices.
     ~Marian Veverka © 2012
When birds leave first

You don’t know.

Here is the ordinary paradise.  What
you expect of checkers, the moves you mark,
blessed ordinary choices made.

What color socks, scanning the landscape
and what will please your tongue, maybe
that box of cereal, a bowl, some milk.

These shoes seem to fit your life.  You
pull tight the laces, big loop goes around
and the sky paints thoughts blue.

Then.  There’s always a then.
What’s that sound at the back of a perfect
thought.  Yours alone?  Read their eyes.

Other faces begin to say, doubt has a name.
Arriving like a wave, recognition has found
your face.  We run like wind would do.

Towards or away from, some burning
need, a dull aching breath, inside this fog.
We hold tight whatever tree seems strong.

Then scattered clothes, holes in snow,
what memories are.  Translucent grace.
Smoke become faint, laying on the ground.

Faces that seemed far, now inside a single
gasp, a breath that doesn’t stop.  Elusive
now, turned to rain gone down the slope.

You don’t know how to plan, anything, anymore.
The day is blue the sky is clear, a child is gone,
a wife, a mother, a marriage torn,

the face who brought you water in a glass
fallen now back beneath the sand.  Some
stranger wraps a cloak around your snow.

This is how paradise is.  This is how life
takes a breath and another and another.
This is how you live.  How you go on.

You gather what scarred hands can find.

I don’t take care of my fears anymore.
     ~neil reid © december 2012
And pardon please the lateness of this posting from our usual. Some system problems had their say over the timing this night.

  1. December 27, 2012 6:07 am

    Almost centered in the screenless bay window
    the sister pines shimmy-shake, their cones
    holding steadfast – after all it is winter

    And yet within the beating of our hearts
    we can call upon the warmth of summer
    directing our positive energetic thoughts

    Some may call that hope, that wish, that desire
    for all to be right with the universe, the world,
    ones’ country, the county, community, city,

    A prayer. The rote ones that were hammered
    into us, schooled, adopted, smoothed, balmy
    psalms -also the unspoken ones freely written

    The spontaneous, unfettered, undocumented
    mournful cries and uncontrolled relief filled
    laughter – the last resort or repeated sigh…

    For the known and for the unknown…for all
    for the birds that do not migrate – and too
    for the dead branch that fell from the willow

    There has to be a purpose, a rhythm, some
    rhyme – doesn’t there? To accept and direct
    the carefully crafted care to where it is needed…

    I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe…

    (c) JP/davh

    • December 28, 2012 10:47 am

      Thank you Julies. I adore the litany of this poem, how it defines “map-like” both place and experience. Is it also a comforting sound in the ear? Seems my answer is yes to that. Yet also in more sparse dose that comparison, “birds that do not migrate” and “dead branch that fell from the willow” makes some sense of “sum” that is inspired. Lovely writing Jules.

  2. December 27, 2012 12:18 pm

    Marian, an honest, sad look at the life we thought we’d made better, and the reality. Beautifully stated. It made me cry.
    Neil, that 10th stanza was stunning. such beautiful writing.

  3. December 28, 2012 7:12 am

    I’m inspired by your writing, Marian. Hopefully write a poem about a child.

    Neil, yes the 10th stanza speaks loudest. Your poem reads like the wind.

    Jules, those are musical words of solace.

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