Friday, February 1, 2019

Poetry Friday: Minor Miracle (in the style of Marilyn Nelson)

Writing "in the style of" poems is lovely because you have a guide to follow. It can also make you wonder exactly which parts of the mentor poem to imitate, and which to let slide. The shape of the whole thing....or only the beginning and ending?  Something as small and as potent as the word choices? Or something as large and as nebulous as the theme?

All of those options were there in Marilyn Nelson's poem, "Minor Miracle," which Tanita suggested as our inspiration.  Go ahead, read it now, if you haven't already. 

Here's what this poem illuminated for me:  

how narrative it was, reading like lean unself-conscious prose, until at points, it broke into enjambment or poetic description.  

how matter-of-fact it was, too, letting the reader provide the emotion (brilliantly making us terrified for the characters in the poem, for example)

and, finally, how it began in medias res with the provoking words “which reminds me.”

I tried to use all of these things.  

Minor Miracle

Which reminds me 
of the day my baby boy was tucked
in a borrowed room. I’d left him, nestled in his Pack-n-Play,
next to a twin daybed, while I ate Tennessee turkey,
which is what he would later call bar-b-que, and in the closet
was a jumble of toys: a sturdy shopping cart, and plastic food
to put inside it; harmless Tonka trucks, and above that, a squashed line
of church dresses, hanging around, waiting. Of course, I knew

there were needles and pins in that room, and other sharp sewing
things, and a ironing board that unfolded from the backside
of the closet door. No room in that house was for one purpose
only. But after lunch, I thought we could nap together, me on the daybed,
and baby boy in his unfolded crib. I didn’t fit, though. A bolster,
the daybed’s length, made it serve as a couch. In the dim
light behind drawn blinds, I lifted that lumbering noodle of a pillow
into the air, making space for myself. But it struck
the etched square of glass—that thing, you know—that covers
the lightbulb—that thing on the ceiling! the shade, 
yes, that’s what it’s called. And it shattered. 

A rain of shards, each a needle, each a pin
fell into my baby boy’s nest. In the dark, he didn’t cry out. 
I threw open the closet door, the ironing board banging 
down. Dresses, covered in plastic, swayed. I yanked 
the tail of metal chain that ran to the weak bulb no one
much used except if they were ironing. Light.
A blurred circle of light. A holy-hand-me-down-halo of light.
My boy’s eyes were closed. A dagger of glass, five inches long,
lay beside his ear. No blood. No sound.
He napped on, as if nothing
had happened. I’m sorry, I said.
I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

                ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

I'll admit, what I found most difficult about this style was making myself not condense it, or stuff it with extra emotion...but just to let the story be, and have power on its own, as Minor Miracle does. Thank you for the illumination, Ms. Nelson. 

I'm excited for you to see what my poetry sisters have created for this challenge, too. (Kelly had some tech issues this month.) 


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.