Original Poem: "Between Broken Poems" with Commentary - LetterPile - Writing and Literature
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Original Poem: "Between Broken Poems" with Commentary

Poetry became my passion after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class circa 1962.

Corn Field by the Road

Introduction and Text of "Between Broken Poems"

A "broken poem" is a special type of poem. The term is coined by Linda Sue Grimes to express the type or style of poem that holds things together. So much of life allows humanity to gather together people and things that the individual loves and would favor not losing. Yet losing is a natural part of life on earth. And losing is done moment by moment, day after day, year after year, life after life.

The ironic nature of labeling a gathering poem a "broken poem" bespeaks the ironic, and even oxymoronic, nature of life on a planet that seems to have a motionless penchant yet continues hurtling at a tremendous speed through space, while the landscape seems to be spread across flatness yet has been scientifically proven to be of a roundish, spherical nature. These earthly contradictions make it impossible to fashion a more accurate description for a gathering poem that would be called other than a "broken poem."

Mental states move in and out, up and down, in front and behind to the point of nausea as the brain tries to keep up. The heart and mind become worn out with tribulation after tribulation, but the soul offers a safe harbor and a place to muse, to cogitate, to elaborate, and with hope eventually to meditate.

But until that precious day arrives when the stillness of body and mind herald that blessed soul into appearance, the creative artists—poet, painter, sculptor, novelist, playwright, or creative essayist—will ply their trade as they work on thinking their way out of dirty dust and into luminous light.

Between Broken Poems

Feel the cold as the ghost slips by . . .

She sulks between rows where weeds
Grow wild as children, where she talks
To clods, shiftless and dusty.

Men gave her a lot of bull and she loved
It for the utter cow in her. Between
Finger and thumb, she squirms live bait
At the edge of her words, her water.

Grapes and memories wet and sweet
Pooled under her tongue that day
He made her mouth a target for the grapes
He threw. She tasted his laugh in the juice
And tangled with his love, she swallowed
With the skin and seeds. She banked off on
Maddening and split around midnight.
Between broken poems are spaces
Where poets keep their lovers—

Spaces where they slumber—
The knotty thoughts they sleep with.
The man with the axe hacked through
The underbrush of what she had written.
His sneers posted keep off private property
Signs on a fence he erected around words
That all these years she thought belonged
To everyone. The slash marks he cut
Across her voice will grow scars, but the hearts
Of poems she wrote for him will bleed forever.

Speaking dirt language, she will sway
With their love like a cornfield waving
Its tassels. As her poems sting his ears,
He will shuck them off easy to forget as corn silk.

—from Turtle Woman & Other Poems

Reading of "Between Broken Poems"

Commentary

This poem concedes nothing but the right to exist in defiance of those who would belittle, confound, and denigrate out of jealousy, ignorance, or just plain evil intent.

First Movement: In the Heat of the Blistering Night

She sulks between rows where weeds
Grow wild as children, where she talks
To clods, shiftless and dusty.

A wedding dress fashioned out of an unusual material—say corn silks and dandelions—will give the bride a fascinating story to tell her children and grandchildren. They will become wide-eyed with wonder and begin to wonder if they too could be so creative as to fashion such a marvel. The girls will imagine themselves moving gracefully down the aisle, noting the handsome groom anticipating their arrival. The boys will shake their heads, laugh nervously, run down the to creek to go wading.

The church will explode in cheers after the couple complete their vows, and then the wild journey begins. Back home to pluck weeds from the gardens, mend clothes and fences on the farm, till the "clods, shiftless and dusty," until they smooth out the wrinkles in time that waits like a badger to inch us all to hell and back.

Second Movement: Traveling Sincerity

Men gave her a lot of bull and she loved
It for the utter cow in her. Between
Finger and thumb, she squirms live bait
At the edge of her words, her water.

Men that women place in poems run the risk of losing all manner of traveling sincerity up the posts of midnight, even though those women do not consider themselves true poets. Maybe a poetaster should pretend to shed tears of agony every time she pinches a nerve because a man lost her in the rains of regrets. Water is the best cleanser for bee stings; history has demonstrated repeatedly that, "finger and thumb" can squash as well as pinch.

The only true remedy, according to this speaker, must lie in the privilege of dotage, where not only does one not give a fig about the shape of nipples, but does not even admit that such an appendage exists. Old can shine like a new penny in the face of "a lot of bull." And as the water rises, the rust on nails will prove that the woman knew about the perfidy of her twin, to whom she had hitherto bowed but scraped out the pits that came with the plums. No sibling is worth losing one's feather for, if the drift of sand will still cover the "live bait" at the "edge of her words."

Third Movement: The Art of Laughing

Grapes and memories wet and sweet
Pooled under her tongue that day
He made her mouth a target for the grapes
He threw. She tasted his laugh in the juice
And tangled with his love, she swallowed
With the skin and seeds. She banked off on
Maddening and split around midnight.
Between broken poems are spaces
Where poets keep their lovers—

Memories are like grapes without seeds, and the imaginary "wet and sweet" remain doubtful but still necessary to guide the farthest thought from which all the "laugh[ing] in the juice" may have originated. Tasting of privilege will be "banked off" as glowing crows settle on the electric wires for the night. Warm feet will lull them to sleep, and by morning they will be ready to "tangle[] with his love."

Raising pigs and sheep and pretending they are flowers causes "[m]addening" in the same sense as breaking poems and acting like a dancer on the loose from a circus party of little people. But when any group of protesters pretends to "split around midnight," they had better have "space" in which they can keep "broken poems."

"Broken poems" constitute the only reality for a world full of deception, delusion, and downright evil. Only in broken poems can a sane individual spit out his/her venom and people who understand not a word of poetry manage again to inhale the wrong smoke. Nothing substantial comes from associating with gasbags and Philistines—a fact that has been known since time immemorial. Still many tangled tongue nit-wits need constant reminding of what seems to obvious to those with eyes and ears and a functioning brain.

Fourth Movement: Thoughts That Break Pride

Spaces where they slumber—
The knotty thoughts they sleep with.
The man with the axe hacked through
The underbrush of what she had written.
His sneers posted keep off private property
Signs on a fence he erected around words
That all these years she thought belonged
To everyone. The slash marks he cut
Across her voice will grow scars, but the hearts
Of poems she wrote for him will bleed forever.

Sleeping in places where "knotty thoughts" have led to hacked dreams rises to the level of cloudy, murky, grunge and lapdog filth. "Sneers" lead to pride and liars will always say they lack pride, once they have taken into consideration that pride does indeed go before the fall. Still spring will come and protested pride is still pride. Again, the distinction between men and women will intrude and likely be misinterpreted. There is no fundamental difference between male and female pride, even though each will remain proud of its own way of spending that pride.

Words that have fences around them are not words. And signs that keep words out of the argument usually appear with the animosity displayed by keepers of hate and disrespect. A voice that continually decries its own logic may be too young to remember the history about which the wishes speak, or it may be filled with absurd tidbits of leaves and thorns that were too weak to make a rose.

Fifth Movement: Gratitude for Small Favors

Speaking dirt language, she will sway
With their love like a cornfield waving
Its tassels. As her poems sting his ears,
He will shuck them off easy to forget as corn silk.

As the speaker draws to the end of her confession, she seems to become more docile though still full of angst. If her poems are to "sting [] ears," she will have to continue to poke the beast with a sharp stick. The same "corn silk" that became part of the innovative wedding dress in the opening may be easier to forget when met as part of a poem. After all bright siblings will agree with the old adage, "What goes around, comes around." And you can be glad you don't have a brother who's a playwright, novelist, or policeman. Forget about the friend who died in childbirth, leaving you to raise her bastard offspring. Float on wings of silk. Rise to the sun with speed faster than Icarus, lest you hit hard and die drowning.

The worst thing about sifting through sand is that the grains become identical to the naked eye. The color may swerve into gay-tones but the texture will remain like the breakfast grits that you had to pick through before heavy boiling. The broken poems will accept all, without reserve, without judgment, with criticism offering something for which one can be thankful. And it has been proven, also scientifically, that dust does indeed pass into light.

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes