I happen to have had the privilege of working with George Kalamaras, current poet laureate of Indiana, and a beloved poetry professor. He taught me almost everything I know about poetry, and improved my writing greatly in the few years I was under his tutelage. We have kept in touch over the years, and he is still an active influence on me. I have been following his facebook page ever since it was created, and each week this summer, he has posted a writing prompt. I have been religiously completing these prompts, finding the desire to share my work with those who also follow him.
This week’s prompt was to write a poem about our mother or father without using clarifying words – mother, father, parent, child, love or raise. I set right to work in writing a poem about my mother, as I have had quite a precedent for choosing to work through my issues with my father through poetry, but here was a chance to finally pay homage to her.
What followed were three poems that only highlighted negative aspects of her, or my relationship with her. I was greatly troubled by this, as my mother and I have a stellar relationship, one many of my friends have expressed jealousy over, and I could not love my mother more than I already do. She is a wonderful woman. So why the negative poems? Why all the obsession over the things about her I can’t bear to be, or the way she has changed over the years in negative ways, or the way she might have once pushed me too hard to follow a dream I didn’t want to achieve?
I recall in the past when my mother was becoming aware of my penchant for poetry, and would often ask me to write poems for family members as gifts. I had to teach her the hard way that I cannot do this, as asking my muse to provide me with homage poetry in a neat little one page package is like asking a dog to take out the garbage – it ain’t ever gonna happen.
I was finally able to write a poem about her that focused more on a lesson she taught me about choices and free will, in regards to religion. But I am troubled over the path I had to travel to find a suitable specimen. A writing prompt is definitely a better way to jostle my muse awake than a request to write a poem as a gift, so maybe I need to focus more on what Freudian slips my muse provided to me than the method I went about writing it.
Did I just need to clear my throat of my negativity before I can focus on the real pearls of wisdom? Therapy is teaching me that holding onto negative criticisms of those I care about is a way of affecting myself negatively. Letting go of them will free up room to focus on the things I appreciate, and I can improve my relationships and retrain my brain to see the positive in life, even if it is shrouded in negative memories. That seems to be what happened in my writing process yesterday. I find it ironic that I had this issue manifest before I was taught this thought, so perhaps I can be so lucky as to have more than one way to apply what I am learning.
The poem that follows is the one I posted for the prompt:
When I was nine, I asked you why
the church was full of people.
You told me everyone was here
to pray and receive a blessing.
I alone was left in the pew
Unbaptized and impure
I would watch as they sung to sup the cup
and feasted upon the wafer.
They looked back at me like I looked at bugs
And yet I longed to be them.
You promised me I would one day
Become a holy host.
I blamed you after every service
for suffering on the outside.
Until one day I opened my eyes
And finally saw your point
When you said you wanted me to choose
Instead of serving indentured.
You were only teaching me that choice
is as important as weighing the options
Of what I want because others want it
And what I want for me.