This week I thought about a more specific theme: physical manifestations of emotional problems. The idea for this theme started with a dream. In the dream, I was walking in a muddy ravine. Below were white crashing rapids. Leaning against a tree were several paintings that my mother had made. As I walked toward the paintings, they started slipping. I moved toward them faster. In the dream, my mother was dead so I didn’t want to lose these precious remnants of her. I noticed my sisters (don’t have any in real life) on the other side of the bank. They watched as I pushed the paintings up with my hands. My feet slid in the mud. I knew that I was going to fall into the ravine with the paintings while my sisters simply watched.
I decided to adapt this dream into a poem. The ravine acts as a physical manifestation of the emotional distance between the point-of-view character and her sisters. I wanted to go a step further than the separation being displayed through the surroundings. I wanted the difference between the sisters to be shown in how they looked – as in their exteriors revealed the difference between how they act. I chose for the P.O.V. character to look not as human as her sisters. Maybe she is ascending from the human condition. Maybe because the poem is told in her perspective, the accounting of events aren’t as accurate as they might be.
Here is the draft of this poem:
Our Mother Leaves Us
I step, jump from one wooden plank
to the next. On my tongue is the song
my mother hummed when I was a baby.
The bridge sways under my weight.
The rope hops in my hand, chafes skin.
My bare feet are soft on the rough
wooden grooves. On the other side
of the ravine, her paintings lean
against a spruce tree. I step, jump
until I’m there, stroking her blue oil
painted cheeks. Rain drips down
my cheeks like tears. I’m as cold
inside as any glacier. My sisters scream
from the other side of the ravine.
They cross their fingers at me. Demon,
monster, they yell. They’re tyrants.
They should be the ones with antlers
sprouting from the sides of their heads.
But it’s me being cast out before
the streams of blood have dried
around my antlers. One of them pulls
out a knife. She smiles as she cuts
up the bridge. The other sister
is saying, bye bye. Her eyes are averted.
I don’t make a run for the other side
as the twine parts under the knife.
There’s nothing for me over there.
They don’t notice when the mud gives
and the paintings slide down the slope.
I grab at them. My fingers stab through
the canvas of one. The rest keep going
out of my reach, to the river far below.
My sister finishes with the bridge.
It rattles as gravity takes it to this side
of the ravine. The leave without looking
at me. I feel pain in my head as the antlers
grow another inch. I look at my fingers
pushed through the painting. They look
like worms pushing up through the ground
during a storm. I know they’ll drown anyway.