Friday, October 19, 2007

Poetry Friday: Credo


I don’t believe in making your bed,
Unless of course, company is coming
And only then, if you are sure
They will be coming upstairs.

I don’t believe in swallowing bugs, or criticism,
Except of course, if they are ants, or backhanded
Compliments, which can be nutritious,
As long as they don’t criticize
your teeth on the way down.

I don’t believe in any form of sugar
For breakfast, except Frosted Flakes eaten
Dry, and large blueberries that have been properly
Worshiped, with both your eyes,
For at least ten minutes.

I don’t believe in painting your fingernails
Any dark color that will chip
Before dinner, unless, of course, it is after
Dinner, the taco sauce has been put away and
Someone else, who you have invited upstairs to
View your unmade bed, is painting them
For you, and wearing a red kimono.

I don’t believe in sleeping with the lights on,
Even if you are terrified, because lights will attract
Robbers (or criticism) which you will then have to throw
Out of your unmade house (or swallow.)

I don’t believe in saying what you really think,
Unless it is to yourself, in the mirror, with both your
Eyes, and only then, if you have consumed no
Compliments for breakfast.

I don’t believe in packing for a trip,
Unless you fully intend to stay
Home, and even then, you should never pack
Slippers and you must always lie
When asked whether you left
The lights on.

I don’t believe in lying, either,
Except between the edges of one drawn breath and
The next, one rapid blink, one twisting of your scaled
Toe into the pile of the carpet and then you must
Stop and say what you really think.

I don’t believe in washing a shirt that has only been worn
Once, except of course, if you have leaned
Against the counter, which had taco sauce on it, or if
You were wearing it while your company
Packed your slippers.

I don’t believe in stirring up trouble,
Unless of course, it is 3:06 AM, and you notice scales
Forming–up to your kneecaps–and it’s too early to
Admire blueberries and you realize
The red kimono, which the robber
Wore, is missing.

I don’t believe in poetry, either,
Unless of course, you want to write some
In an unmade bed, with a pen between your
Burgundy fingernails (chipped)
Munching on Frosted Flakes,
In a taco sauce stained shirt, with all the lights
On, lying through your much-criticized
Teeth, just before you pack your suitcase
Full of what you really think.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

* Credo means "I believe." I wrote this poem after hearing several people toss off the phrase "I don't believe in..." and they weren't talking about theology. They were discussing topics like wearing synthetic socks or buying things not on sale or giving a child a binky. When I started riffing on the phrase, I wound up writing a poem not so much about particular beliefs or non-beliefs, but about how complicated our personal creeds are. How did we draw those lines we won't cross? What are our exceptions? If we had to explain ourselves, could we do it? For further inspiration, try a Google search on: "I don't believe in..." Some things that turned up: polls, the death penalty, failure, God, love, atheists, first grade, hell and walled gardens. You can also search on "how to write a credo."

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Kelly Fineman


  1. Sitting here with my dark chipped nail polish, with my bed unmade, having yet eaten no sugar -- but the day is young -- I don't believe I've read a poem yet today that I like quite so much!

    There is a sensuousness in this, a wideness, even as it is negating -- everything, and in a roundabout fashion, excluding, really, nothing. I think you capture the dichotomies of our personal experience succinctly.

    I'm humbled just to know you. Sheesh.

  2. I'm with Tanita, humbled to know you.

    I love the way you interlocked your images, and the either/or of whether to swallow the criticism or the robber, and all of the contradictions within it, including its suitcase full of what you really think.

    I am liking it even more than today's Keats, and that is saying something.

  3. Next to you, I feel like a babbling idiot. What a finely wrought poem -- that resonates, questions, stabs, grabs, and tosses the dichotomies of our lives into that "suitcase full of what you really think." (Thunderous applause) I bow to you !
    (Oh, I am not worthy.)

  4. Sara--wow. What happened to posting only so-so poems you didn't want to try to publish? I'm so glad you shared this with us--I love it. It's dizzying in its everyday details but surreal feel. But I also hope you're submitting it to journals. It's amazing.

  5. This is just as wonderful the second time. Can I email this link to everyone I know?

  6. I drive home from mass every Sunday just in time to hear the This I Believe segment on Weekend Edition. I always wonder what I would write, but can't wrap my head around what I really believe, and how could I put into a one minute segment anyway? Now what I don't believe -- THAT I could sink my teeth into. However, I don't know that it would ever meet the standard you've set. This one is just lovely. It now rivals the corn poem as one of my favorites.
    Thanks for giving me so much to think about!

  7. Oh Sara, I am captivated by the rhythm and flow. I want to read it again and again. Totally agree about fingernails being polished.

  8. Brava. I wasn't sure where you were heading at first, but once we got there I was glad for the adventure.

    It isn't often you can stand at your computer and give what's on the screen a standing o.

  9. I really hope you publish a book of your poems. And when you do, I'll be sending you my copy to autograph (I'm a big fan!)

    This one reminds me of the t-shirt/ laundy poem you did a while back. I love how you find the poem in everyday domestic things. They also remind me of Al Purdy that way- he could find the poem under the hood of a car.

  10. I don't know what to say to all of you, except that you are as marvelous a group of listeners as any poet could ever hope for.

    And if you ever meet me in person, bring your suitcases. ;0

  11. This is incredible. I loved it so very much. Wow...

  12. Good gosh, Sara. I am wicked impressed. I don't begin to know how you did this, but I am so glad you did.


  13. That's fantastic, Sara. It had to have been fun writing this. I think I'll try a riff or two for myself.

  14. Sara,

    I'm with John. When are we going to see a book of your original poems? Both you and Cloudscome have posted poems at your blogs that are definitely worthy of publication.

  15. I third (fourth?) the suggestion that you publish a book of poems. I don't even like poetry, but you keep writing such magical things that make me change my mind.;^)

  16. What a fine Credo. I will run a search and learn how to write one of my own. Thank you for welcoming me to 'Poetry Friday'. I have been browsing book blogs for some time and was inspired by all of you talented folks to give it a try...

  17. Here's one of the best compliments I can give -- this reminds me of Billy Collins' poetry! I'm picturing you as a future poet laureate who speaks in plain truths to The People.

  18. Here's another vote for a book of poetry. This poem rocks!

  19. What a great example of a credo poem.. Just what I needed, I need to write a few for my class! :3

    I hope I will be able to think up something great.

  20. This is probably still one of my favorite poems of yours. Don't know why. I should attempt a credo poem myself some day...


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