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Dec 1

December: Works for an occasion

December 1

Poems composed for a special occasion are not always "sharable" to those outside the circumstances of the writing. Sometimes, though, an occasional poem captures something that has potential to go beyond the situation. I wrote this poem for my son, who had decided on his birthday to purchase a digital piano for his tiny Manhattan apartment (with headphones, of course). I started out simply wanting to wish him a happy day, and by the end, realized there was something about the two images of beads and keys I would perhaps like to explore further one day. This is the poem for the occasion, used with permission of my son, to whom the poem now belongs.

A tiny birthday poem

Birthdays thread charms on a chain
each one speaking the language of its now:
womb by favorite chair in the library,
lullaby by the vendor’s morning banter,
pastrami piled high on Saturday pancakes
and after-school zucchini bread.

It is all one and unimaginable in its strangeness,
one bead knowing nothing of the other
except that they stroke the same wrist.
It will have been a known unknowing,
a knocking against a depth of time
that stories long to tell.

Add this bead to the string –
a table readying itself for a keyboard,
88 keys enfolding primers and progress
and meeting of hands and minds
and a space to keep safe all the wild fragments
that make us wholly who we are.

--Karen Lynn Erickson

Invitation for your writing:
Choose an occasion within your family's traditions or from the calendar of your culture. Generate a list of objects, sounds, smells, memories, images, thoughts that you associate with that occasion. Write each one on a different slip of paper or card, and spread them out before you. Move them around, looking for connections of sense, texture, taste, emotional resonance, or any other organizing theme, then re-organize them by color or size or chronology, or any other category you see emerging. Then write a poem incorporating the pieces that fit whatever threads you discovered as you improvised.