Your life is a poem–part 2

19 Feb

A poem is made up of words and lines–some rhyme, some don’t. Some poetic forms are very tight, like villanelles and sonnets. On occasion, these poems are uptight and awkward, while other times they sing so melodically that we scarcely notice the complex structure.

Poems come in stanzas–think of them as chapters in a book. The last stanza of a sonnet or a limerick can take a surprising or ironic twist.

Our lives are like this, too. They have forms and shapes, they flow melodically, singing songs of exultation and also stalling at times, dipping into sadness, even tragedy.

There are angry poems and protest poems that continue to ring out long after their poets have gone.

When I think of life as a poem–my own life and the lives of those around me, it changes my perspective. I see the people around me as a community of poets.

Our life-poems are spelled out for all to read. Your poem embodies the rhythms of where you’ve been and what you’ve done, what you’ve fought against, how you’ve loved and where you’ve been disappointed. You have to help us interpret, to discover how the stanzas have unfolded, to learn how simple rhymes rest on deeper feelings, how inscrutable verse unlocks a world only you have seen.

In our dining room, entertaining limericks sit beside Shakespearean sonnets; paeans of praise beside tightly framed lamentations. Although it’s clear our poems have been written by diligence and craft, it’s also clear we don’t write our poems by ourselves. We are co-authors–families, co-workers, even our foes have taken their turns writing our lines, giving our poems unexpected twists. At times, death, tragedy, and illness take up the pen and write.

In certain situations we may think we are writing the later stanzas of our poem. But our poem never stops. Our actions and words are carried on in the lives of those we have touched. Consider the dance of the atoms and molecules that make up our bodies–they do not die. They may have originated in the far reaches of space before they took up residence in us, and who knows where they will travel next, what shapes they will take? We don’t even know what our future poems will look like.

I tried to convey this in a poem of my own–

I go back light years–
the dust of stars
floats in my flesh.
Orang and Neanderthal are
my kin.

Primeval stuff
and primate
do not halt their
flow because this pulse

Shattered in a thousand shards
by earth’s grinding
is not death
but a thousand more

paths through
cosmos, shapes as
yet unseen,

(c) Phil Hefner 2/18/2017

2 Responses to “Your life is a poem–part 2”

  1. Liftthescreen February 22, 2017 at 3:19 am #


    Yes, good observations. The poem may be one of your best.

    I echo your thoughts. I also see myself as a chapter in a series of lives begun long before my lifetime, and to be continued. I see echoes of chapters in generations past and future.

    After I chose to make publishing a life work, I found two ancestors in publishing. My Grandfather Rausch was editor of the magazine of the German ALC. His own grandfather had a publishing house that printed and distributed religious literature. The income from this work helped to support the orphanage that he founded and administered.

    I have an 1880 painting of this institution hanging in my living room. An obscure cousin in Milwaukee, who I never met, decided I should have the painting, found me, and sent me the painting.

    My father also ran an orphanage; he and my mother had various projects to help keep it funded. When my father decided to accept the call to administer the orphanage, he did not realize his great-grandfather had done much the same kind of work in Germany.

    My grandfather took philosophy courses at Ann Arbor while pastoring a church nearby. In a paper that he wrote for a philosophy course, I found the prediction that work on the relationship between science and religion would be the most important task of the church in the 20th Century. He wrote this on January 30, 1907. I read it on January 30, 2007. That gave me a chill.

    My son Phil Gorski wrote about the “disciplinary revolution” in German and Dutch cultures following the Calvinist and Lutheran Reformations. As part of his research, he read the records of the Secretary of the Cabinet in a kingdom now part of Prussia. If he had gone a bit farther south, to the Kingdom of Hesse Kassel, and read the records of the Secretary of the Cabinet there, he would have been researching his ancestor’s writings. Another ancestor set up up the military chaplaincy for this kingdom. The establishment of government agencies for such purposes was part of what Phil wrote about. But he did not know about these people when he did the research.

    I believe that we may each be writing some chapters in longer narratives, that we may know, or may not.

    Carol Rausch Albright

  2. Liftthescreen February 25, 2017 at 10:26 pm #

    From Susan Baretto–

    I’m thrilled that you are finally able to put into poetry so many of the connections you have made over the years with the concept of the created co-creator. That creation never ends, right? Death is not something that is to be feared but another aspect of life in many ways. And all of humanity will experience it different ways at different times. Sometimes it is tragic and other times it is peaceful. But in reality it is unknowable and that is what makes it great material for poetry.

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