The day my sister first married,
her eyes glowed green
as a spring leaf caught against a ray of sunlight.
I was seventeen,
and time has faded that day in my mind
covered many moments with a patina of wistful fondness
I was jealous of her that day.
I wanted to be ready
for love and family
for life and freedom
but I wasn’t even ready for college.
The maid-of-honor has a story too.
I remember waking up early
for rituals of beauty
marking a special day.
She was marrying a soldier,
and in his remarks during the ceremony
the minister said there was a time for war
as well as a time for peace.
I stood and smiled.
I remember fast and blurred impressions
of the reception
of watching the first dance, a cryptic U2 hit
of my sister coyly shaking her head
before her soldier retrieved the garter
of fast high kicks from the young men, joined by my father
during a rousing country line dance tune
I remember that I didn’t want to eat.
It was my most poorly-timed fast for political protest.
I remember that I ate the wedding cake anyway.
My sister has always been beautiful.
In the pictures taken of her that day,
with ripe golden potential
wearing a fine, full gown
and our mother’s garnet cross.
Dark red goes so well
with gold and white roses.
But it is her eyes that captured me then
that capture me now
Their ecstatic shades of green as life-giving as farmer’s soil.
After being warned by a test reader that the first poem posted to this blog, “Hatred”, was ‘a little opaque’ (which is a nice way of saying “I had no idea what you were talking about, Lyn!”) I knew that I wanted my next poem to be easy to follow. While I do enjoy writing cryptic material, I don’t want to frustrate my audience to tears because then I won’t have an audience for long. I decided to take a little stroll down that familiar avenue, Memory Lane. As I did, I noticed something strange; the houses I was passing didn’t look the same as they had on previous jaunts. Everything seemed to be coated in mist, so that I could make out general shapes and looming impressions, but few fine details. I decided to craft a poem to reflect this far-away, misty experience.
OK, enough with the extended metaphors. “Morning Dew” is an example of a poem that was written in its entirety without a title, and then I chose a title for it as a capstone or summary of what had already been created. I chose to title it “Morning Dew” because I wanted an image that implied three things: 1) a fresh beginning, 2) messiness, and 3) ephemerality. The purpose of a wedding is to celebrate the fresh beginning of a marriage, and my sister’s first wedding was no exception to this. It was a celebration, but I also remember it as being a somewhat messy one, not in a literal sense like I spilled my food or something, but in my role as maid-of-honor I remember a lot of rushing around and worrying about loose ends. My guess is that most of the guests did not experience this aspect of the event, but this isn’t their poem. Have you ever walked across grass coated in morning dew? Definitely messy. Perhaps most importantly, I wanted the title to invoke an ephemeral quality. Just like dew evaporates, my sister’s first marriage eventually ended. (She has recently remarried, perhaps it was attending her second wedding that stirred these memories in me.) Also, as I have already noted, memory is ephemeral. Almost everything that I remember from that day is contained in this poem. That’s not a lot of details for a full day of existence, and it’s much more than I can remember of the days that surrounded it.
Structurally speaking, this can be looked at as another “5 paragraph essay” poem, with a slightly longer introduction and a truncated third body point (for dramatic effect). The rhetorical repetition of “I remember” as a stanza starter points to this. Maybe next poem I’ll try to focus on varying my structure a bit more. Structure may be the poetic element that I put the least amount of conscious thought into and for which I am most likely to just ‘go with what I know.’
I don’t have as many comments to make on specific lines in this poem as I did in my first one. This may be a sign that this poem does better at standing on its own feet. I will say that the image of my sister’s eyes being the color of sunlit leaves was not created fresh for this poem; I believe I thought of it around the time of that first wedding, and it has stuck with me ever since. Almost every time I see green leaves with sunlight shining through them, I think of her. I will also say that in writing this poem, I faced one of my least favorite artistic challenges: to pop-culture reference, or not to pop-culture reference? The song that the men danced to during the reception was the mid-90’s version of “Cotton Eye Joe,” but having just given a specific band name a few lines before (U2), I decided not to drop a second reference. If I were going to change anything about the poem as it currently stands, I would probably figure out a way to take out the mention of U2 as well. I generally try to avoid pop-culture references as much as possible in my writing, because I feel they quickly date the work and I want my material to hold up to the test of time, but sometimes they are unavoidable and I do recognize that some people really appreciate them.
“Morning Dew” was not a difficult poem to write, and I didn’t really challenge myself creatively in the process for it (though I did look up the definition of “patina” to make sure I was using it correctly). But art doesn’t have to be a painful struggle to express a truth, because the truth is not always painful (thank goodness!). Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to play it safe and speak comfortably. Plus, when you make exploring painful and uncomfortable material a regular staple of your artistic process, exercising restraint and not going there becomes, simply put, another type of challenge.