This line has been going through my head all week. It’s been a mantra. Over and over it plays, demanding to be taken places from innocence to tragic.
It’s the creative process. A word, a phrase, a sentence can all mean different things to different people and at different times. If you let a thing, have more than one meaning or project more than one image, that thing can become bigger than it was before.
In every day life there are things that can be expressed as a poem – that strange language that compresses words, creates images, and builds feelings. Not all poems have to be about the great truths of the world – sometimes the great is in the mundane. In skilled hands a flower or a child running through the grass, can impart more truth than all the words of all the philosophers who’ve ever lived.
The title above was actually a Facebook post and I’m stealing it. It was posted by a friend who’s power went out on a hot night and the whole family just went swimming in their pool. A simple scene. The power fails, the A/C stops, the house heats while mom, dad and the kids don swimsuits to jump into the cool water in the family pool. When the power returns, suits are hung, bodies dried, A/C restored and it’s bed time for a happy modern suburban American family.
There’s a poem in there about the joys of family life – about turning discomfort into fun – about adapting and coping.
Knowing the family involved, I envision this scene and feeling, without having been there.
When you have no power you go swimming in the dark
Let’s set reality free and image other situations.
Perhaps a single mother has lost her job. She can’t find another and the unemployment checks run out. She receives the eviction notice on her small apartment and just before moving to live in her car, she takes her children swimming one last time …
Or perhaps in the dark we spy two young lovers camped by a remote lake. In the heat of the evening, a touch, a kiss, clothes drop, bodies swim, love, lust — all swirl as the grasshoppers sing …
Or a man is in a car desperately driving and looking for a way out of town. Smoke chokes the sky as the flames start to rush past as his town of Paradise is consumed in flame. When the road becomes blocked and his car starts to burn he runs for the small creek and the little water there that might protect him …
Or it’s a war and the teenage girl has made it as far as the river. On the other side, the hope – the possibility of refugee camp and being out of range of the guns – out of the hands of the enemy and certain rape. Bombs, fire, and gas have killed her family. Mother and father dying to get her away. Crouched on the river bank she has no weapons, no friends, no safety and little strength left. As the sun goes down she slips into the water hoping to either reach safety or drown.
In the many poems and stories that could be built from the title, there are Three basic things: Powerlessness, darkness, and water. Power can either be physical or metaphorical. Think of a time in your life when you faced these. Was it happy? Was it scary?
Given the title above: What picture would you draw? What story would you tell?
What poem would you write?