Friday, July 2, 2021

what you know and what you don't


Welcome to July! Here's where you can learn more about the Poetry Friday tradition...all are free to join in and link up.  What Is Poetry Friday?

This month I am the Challenger for our little critique group, who borrowed the monthly challenge idea from our Poetry Friday friends the Seven Poetry Sisters. This month I have also borrowed the challenge itself from Tabatha Yeatts, whose post last week featured a poem by Gail Martin and noted what a good mentor poem it could be.


 What Pain Doesn't Know About Me | Gail Martin

How I visualize him as a rooster.  How I nickname him Sparky.

My rabbit-heart. How it looks motionless in the bank of clover 

but secretly continues to nibble.

I can tell time underwater.  I sing hymns there.

He's not pocketed by vanity.

My history with onions.

(read the rest here at Willow Springs Magazine)


I had some other bits in my challenge about using throwing in either some invented/compounded words or some anthimeria, which is converting a noun into a verb, a verb into a noun, etc.--but then I got distracted by the prompt at Poets & Writers this week. (I get good mileage from putting two poems side by side and aiming for the overlaps in between.) Here's the poem it's based on, by Stephen Dunn, who died recently.

The Routine Things Around the House | Stephen Dunn

When Mother died

I thought: now I'll have a death poem.

That was unforgivable


yet I’ve since forgiven myself

as sons are able to do

who’ve been loved by their mothers.

I stared into the coffin

knowing how long she’d live,

how many lifetimes there are

in the sweet revisions of memory.

It’s hard to know exactly 

how we ease ourselves back from sadness,

but I remembered when I was twelve,

(read the rest here at


So now my response has more of those elements of uncommon or surprising memories and no invented words, no anthimeria. Here's what I came up with.



Be sure to go and see how the rest of us have tackled this challenge, and whether my partners in rhyme have been more obedient than I!  

-Catherine at Reading to the Core -Margaret at Reflections on the Teche -Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone
-Linda at A Word Edgewise

Our host today is Laura Shovan at her homebase. See you there!


  1. Lots of WOW here. I'm going to have to think about "how many lifetimes there are/in the sweet revisions of memory." (RIP Stephen Dunn) Your poem is full of impact. Desolate, howling (but quietly), and swallowed by air. Wow! xo

  2. Heidi, I love the way this poem evolved and surprised, just as all good poems do. Your final line is my favorite. As I actively avoid grief this week, these lines from Dunn's poem will stick with me: "It’s hard to know exactly /how we ease ourselves back from sadness." Thank you for this though-provoking challenge!

  3. Oh, that Stephen Dunn poem is so brave and raw and surprising and tender. Now, he's passed and they are both gone those beautiful people who loved each other. I will say his name out loud today.
    Heidi, your poem has tenderness and mystery and specific memory. So much lacing together of beauty. I can hear the clunk of the bottle of Tab dropping down into the compartment for you to take.

  4. Heidi, nice job tweaking your prompt. It seems just what one should do. I really like how your memory knows "how I stood at the chainlink fence / Honeysuckle stamens on my tongue." Beautiful image and brings back my own similar memories.

  5. Thanks for sharing that Stephen Dunn poem, Heidi. I've heard that he was a phenomenal teacher. Your last couplet could be the start of its own poem -- it's so rich with suggestion.

  6. Love those "Honeysuckle stamens on my tongue."And weightless, and swallowed by spring air–thanks for this peek into your memories of surprise Heidi!

  7. I love the evolution of this poem from what your memory forgets to what you will always remember and how that ending lifts us all up on air. Thanks for this challenge!

  8. Like Margaret, I love a peek into the evolution of this poem and your TWO mentor texts. I recently jotted some childhood memories that I have carried all this way like a pocket full of pebbles and your first stanza fees so very true. (Well, the whole poem does, but you had me with your lead!)

  9. much feeling these days that I tremble on the brink of unraveling. These lines from Stephen Dunn spoke to me:
    "how many lifetimes there are
    in the sweet revisions of memory.
    It’s hard to know exactly
    how we ease ourselves back from sadness"
    and your poem, with its emotional range from howling desolation to weightlessness and air swallowing--wow! Well done, Heidi.

  10. I love the imagery and language in your poem "That one time I was weightless in Central Park/How the spring air swallowed me." just beautiful!

    I've been inspired by reading everyone's responses to this challenge to try a similar poem. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Thank you for the Stephen Dunn poem. How remarkable! And your poem's title has me thinking how my memories know more about me than I think. I loved the stanza about the honeysuckle. How sweet their sap was.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!