Most of the time when I begin to write a poem, I jot down ideas and a few tentative lines. Sometimes, if I am really struggling, I’ll set my timer for twenty minutes and force myself to write until I fill a couple of pages. Sometimes when I go to the well, I’m afraid to even lower the bucket for fear that the water is gone. Now I know that every writer feels that way, even Liz Gilbert and David Balducci, as I learned when I heard them on the radio.
But every once in awhile, I get what I call a gift poem —an effortless, poem that flows from my pen and is interesting without any changes.
But then the doubts creep in. I tell myself the work can’t be that good because it hasn’t been revised, nor shaped . I haven’t played with word choice and metaphor, nor drafted several versions. I find it’s hard to accept a gift poem, especially because I am committed to craft. Ninety-nine per cent of my poems need revision and numerous drafts before I imagine submitting them.
But like those times when friends or a partner or my children decide to surprise me with an unexpected gift, so, too does my personal Muse. I’ve learned that when the gift poem appears, I simply say “thank you” and see it as an affirmation to keep writing.
Here’s a “gift poem” that made its way into my memoir in verse, “The Altar of Innocence.” The poem got nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I hope you enjoy it!
No one ever tells the story
of Mrs. Sisyphus
perhaps because she
endures at the bottom
of the hill
with all the little boulders
tumbling from above.
In between the spinning of cloth
and the baking of bread,
she rolls the children out the door
to play and rolls the food
home from the market.
Day after day
she jostles the water jugs
from well to home
and back .
She nudges and cajoles the
bigger boulders of animals
from pasture to barn
and finally to slaughter.
for all the Baby Sisiphi
who gather around the table
whining When is Daddy coming home?
Hello, friend! I’m glad to hear a little background on the genesis of this poem. I love how you blend mythology and the life of everyday to create a timeless portrait, but with an edgy tone.
Thanks, Laura. I really love this poem and the notion of Mrs. S working and the baby Sisiphi waiting around for daddy.