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Hero's Poetry Journey, week 7
Hello, Poetry Friend
Few women like to admit they have enemies. (Those who do admit it are the kind who actually enjoy a skirmish.) I generally get along well with most people — I keep friends for decades. So veering into enemy territory was a shock.
Every road of trials has to include enemies. But more than likely, our enemy is not the person we expected. Often she or he is a friend or even a family member. We value their opinion because we value them.
My moment came with the mother of one of my child’s friends. I trusted her to be a good influence, and she was. She still is, despite her criticism of me one Tuesday morning.
We were at the gym. Her cycling class was ending, and my yoga class was starting. She pulled me aside and said angrily, “Something is wrong in your family.”
“Yes,” I said.
She ticked off all the things we’d done wrong — each one a fact well-known to everyone in our small town. She kept accusing, and I kept nodding.
“Pray for us,” I said.
She walked away.
This happened ten years ago. We are now friendly when we meet at the gym. Sometimes we even attend the same class.
“California Hills in August” by Dana Gioia
California Hills in August I can imagine someone who found these fields unbearable, who climbed the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust, cracking the brittle weeds underfoot, wishing a few more trees for shade. An Easterner especially, who would scorn the meagerness of summer, the dry twisted shapes of black elm, scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape August has already drained of green. One who would hurry over the clinging thistle, foxtail, golden poppy, knowing everything was just a weed, unable to conceive that these trees and sparse brown bushes were alive. And hate the bright stillness of the noon without wind, without motion, the only other living thing a hawk, hungry for prey, suspended in the blinding, sunlit blue. And yet how gentle it seems to someone raised in a landscape short of rain— the skyline of a hill broken by no more trees than one can count, the grass, the empty sky, the wish for water. – Dana Gioia
For me, the enemy of enemies — rendered symbolically — is not the storm of a confrontation, but drought. It’s the natural disaster we don’t talk about until it touches us. One of the saddest tragedies I’ve ever read is The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton, about the 1950s drought in the Texas Panhandle. Silent and stealthy, drought is the perfect metaphor for the enemy that undoes me.
It’s the phone that does not ring. The email or text with no response. The landscape rewritten by lack.
But if you live there long enough, it begins to look different. Even “gentle,” as Gioia writes. The very “wish for water” can sustain us through many a soul’s dessicated night.
Read Gioia’s poem. Jot down what you notice, what you like, what you don’t, what questions you have, and at least one way in which the poem speaks to your soul.
Think about your enemy. How could you write about them using metaphor?
Read Gioia's poem aloud. Pick one phrase or line or stanza you can tuck deep in your heart.
Write your own haiku about this stage of your hero’s poetry journey. (Mine is at meganwillome.com.) If you like, email me what you write.
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