Friday, January 28, 2011

So You Thought You Wanted to be a Poet

A long time ago, I had aspirations of writing poetry or perhaps a song or two. I was working sixteen hour days in a rather sterile and solitary environment. To keep from going stark raving mad, I began writing in a journal. Most of the entries were random scribblings, but there was an occasional poem and even the framework of a humorous novel.

The journal traveled around the world for nearly thirty five years without suffering more than a dog eared page or two, as well as the expected wear and tear on the outer jacket. The writings grew less and less frequent as the years passed, but the contents still held great meaning and memories for me.

In early June of 2010, I traveled to Charleston, SC for a weekend getaway with my wife. The dogs stayed at home with their favorite dog sitter Kelly. Things were going great until my phone rang while I was on a tour of Charleston harbor. It was my dad with the somber news that my step-mom had cancer. Between the roar of the boat engines, the tour guide giving descriptions and a rather stiff breeze, it was very difficult to hear what dad was trying to tell me. I promised to call him when we landed to get the full story.

Once we were safely back to the hotel, I called dad and was filled in on all the grim details. They were sure it was cancer, but more tests would be needed to confirm things. I asked dad if he needed me to come to NY, but he assured me that there was nothing I could do there that I couldn't do equally as well from where I was. At that point, good thoughts and prayers were about all anyone could do.

The rest of the short vacation was tempered by the news, but we still managed to have an enjoyable time and got to see some great scenery. We headed home on a balmy Sunday morning. The trip was uneventful and we had a great time just talking and spending time with each other. When we arrived home, the dogs were their usual ecstatic selves...thrilled to see us and bouncing off the walls. Jan took the dogs outside while I unloaded the car. It was on my second trip in that I saw the note from Kelly atop a large plastic grocery bag.

I assumed that it was just a simple note telling us that things had gone well and the bag contained the mail. How wrong I was. Seems the dogs had just gone totally insane while we were gone. Chewing on things they never chewed on....blankets, bedspreads and the quilt Jan had made me for Christmas a few years ago. The worst part was contained in the plastic bag. It seems that Zelda really decided that she was mad at me. She had gone into my office and taken the journal off the lower shelf of my desk. All I can say is that there wasn't a whole lot left of my years of work. I was able to salvage a grand total of thirteen pages out of over three hundred. Ouch. And yes...Zelda is still alive. I wasn't happy with her, but it was my own stupidity that caused it to get eaten, I normally kept it in a drawer of the desk.

Spring forward to this week. One of the local newspapers is having a poetry contest. I was pretty sure that there was a short selection in the remaining pages of the journal that might qualify. I spent the last few days trying to recreate the damaged parts and turn the work into something worthy of submission. I have no idea if I succeeded in my quest or not, but I do recall one of my professors telling me that the mark of a decent poem is that it evokes an emotion from the audience. I read the finished product to Jan and she assured me that it caused an emotional reaction. To be fair, she never did tell me what emotion, but I went ahead and submitted the thing anyway.

Without further ado, I give you "Seafaring Blues".

Early morning seas, rising to the wind
The haunting cry of a gull
Beware, the storm begins.
Tossing and turning, losing all my sleep
Still the waves keep rolling
And yet, I long for you.

The sea, it gets so restless
But then, so does my mind.
The rising tide,
Swept you from my side
And still, I hear your call.

Sometimes within you, but mostly without
Clearly, I miss you
And love you even more.
The world is not ours to hold, much less to own
When the call comes to go,
Do we seek a new home?

Searching and yearning, reaching for nothing
Broken hearts weep in sorrow.
Time seems I can’t go on.
I feel my soul sinking, slowly pulled under
Stealing my breath
Like the ebb of the tide.

The sea, it gets so restless
But then, so does my mind
The rising tide,
Swept you from my side
And still, I hear your call.

Sometimes within you, but mostly without
Clearly, I miss you
And love you even more
Time heals the hurt, once the storm has passed
The waves roll on and on
But love remains steadfast.

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