Friday, February 7, 2014

Stone Worn Smooth

During one phase of my poetry writing, it was a trademark of mine to rely on arcane mythological references. This often made the poems feel very formal and kind of erudite. During another phase, I stuffed my work with a self-created, private form of urban slang. These approaches all provided a definite feel I was going after. In the last decade or so, and especially with poetry I write in verse, I've backed away from anything like this. 

The images and language I've been using feels a lot more down to earth - and perhaps the work is less original because of that. However, there is an unassuming, direct feeling this approach brings that I like. It feels like the difference between a Johnny Cash song and a Pink Floyd song. Pink Floyd is harder to relate to (or even understand) and so they can come off as abstract and a little pompous. In contrast, a guy like Johnny Cash is always visceral. He speaks a truth, kicks dirt over it, and moves on. I think in my forties I've moved much more towards a Johnny Cash kind of poetry that is more direct. In fact, if I could sing (at all), I would probably be writing all my recent poems as songs rather than poetry.

I wrote the initial version of 'Stone Worn Smooth' back in November and only today felt a need to write and, in so doing, found it again. It only took a couple hours to finish it this morning. In working it, I once again ended up with five five-line stanzas. Totally accidental, but it's kind of interesting to me that in these past couple years no matter how a piece starts it often winds up in something close to this format.

Stone Worn Smooth

Sand and grit and chert
I'm fused in jagged latticework
Untold pressure
primeval pyre
I came into this world on fire

Wave and wind and storm
freeze me hard 'til seasons warm
Tossed and battered
yet relishing the fray
I seek new scars in every day

Acts and thoughts and words
I speak so loud but am not heard
Raging forth
then poker faced
Ever restarting this winless race

Now upon a sandy shore
free of all that came before
All I've lost
All I've gained
Makes no difference to what remains

I have soared with galaxies
I've drunk my tears while on my knees
Say I've lost
Say I've won
With all these names I am done

- Peter Cholewinski

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