America, or: Jerusalem

‘Endings / beginnings’, a d’Verse prompt

More than anything else, I simply wanted her to be okay after Papa died
Though it seems rather unpoetic and prosaic to me looking back at it
Of course that is what I would have wanted for Mama; and for all of us
Losing one parent so tragically would have been impossible enough for me

Though it seems rather unpoetic and prosaic to me looking back at it
I wanted to swallow the depths of the Atlantic Ocean after Papa died
Losing one parent so tragically would have been impossible enough for me
Even if my mother hadn't been living so far, far, far away, somewhere

I wanted to swallow the depths of the Atlantic Ocean after Papa died
Anything to cry together with one's mother and baby brother, I felt
Even if my mother hadn't been living so far, far, far away, somewhere
Somewhere I had once called home, but which now smelled of foreign air

Anything to cry together with one's mother and baby brother, I felt
I felt utterly helpless and useless and disconnected from my Mama
Somewhere I had once called home, but which now smelled of foreign air
She was still stuck inside that house, living with the scents of him

I felt utterly helpless and useless and disconnected from my Mama
Writing myself out because I didn't believe prayer could reach America
She was still stuck inside that house, living with the scents of him
I was raising their grandchild in their Jerusalem, where his soul lived

Writing myself out because I didn't believe prayer could reach America
Actually, no human expression could hold a loved one across the world
I was raising their grandchild in their Jerusalem, where his soul lived
Mama and Papa had always, always, always wanted to return to Jerusalem

Actually, no human expression could hold a loved one across the world
I simply could think of nothing else to do with my useless, distant self
Mama and Papa had always, always, always wanted to return to Jerusalem
Mama was now alone, widowed in her America, with me in her Jerusalem

I simply could think of nothing else to do with my useless, distant self
So I wrote and wrote and wrote and when I tried to stop I was miserable
Mama was now alone, widowed in her America, with me in her Jerusalem
More than anything else, I simply wanted her to be okay after Papa died

The above poem is my take on d’Verse’s ‘endings / beginnings’ prompt.

We were offered five alternative ways to play with endings in poetry:

  1. how and where to end that line 
  2. endings as quotations like The Golden Shovel form – where one poem quotes another 
  3. endings and beginnings – verse forms that loop and repeat
  4. underlining your endings, and
  5. surprise endings.

I selected the 3rd option, after reading Australian poet Tess Pearson’s pantoum on housework called ‘Household Ripening’, which really moved me in both form and substance.

My thoughts have been with my mother as of late.

88 thoughts on “America, or: Jerusalem”

  1. Sometimes words are all we have to offer.
    And even then when they are not enough, expressing so,
    will appease a forlorn heart.

    Thank you for your poem.

  2. Wow David!! For a writing exercise with rules and certain layout and format..this was just such an emotional read. I love it and if the repetition was only because that was the form..who care’s? It felt raw and human and really moved me. Even when you are just completing an exercise in writing, your sensitivity and soul shine through!

    1. Björn,

      Yes, thank you. You know, your comment is actually poetic itself! One could read it as suggesting that “longing” and “mourning” are the “two places that are both like home for” for us…

      Yours,
      David

  3. Very powerful poem, and I am so sorry for your loss! Best wishes to your mother, having to continue on without your father by her side.
    It is so strange to lose one’s parent. Since my Dad got really sick with cancer, I often wake up feeling there is an axe in my chest. It is hard to feel orphaned in a way, but I keep talking to my Dad, sure he is in some ways closer than ever, even while I can’t believe he is physically gone.
    Hugs and prayers across time and space for all your family!

  4. David, a heartfelt poem. I rarely see my children now, but we do keep in touch by email and phone. Where is your mother living now that her house has been sold? When covid is over, I hope you can arrange an extended family visit. It is hard for children and grandparents not to be able to interact. Children grow up so fast!

    All the best for 2021!

  5. Excellent response to Peter’s wonderful prompt Ben, very touching. I loved my father deeply. I was the one who had to pull the plug on his respirator, no one else could do it, but he was brain dead — no longer there, just a husk. He was my hero. Still haunts me. Hope you have a great holiday season, and look forward to reading more of your work in 2021.

  6. Beautiful with the repetition, very moving… I relate to a lot of this, David. “So I wrote and wrote and wrote and when I tried to stop I was miserable”… yes.

    Not sure if you’re aware, maybe you have used Verse Block (which I have found to be glitchy)? But the poem portion of the post shows with that coding-style font and strange line breaks (often in the middle of words), in my browser (desktop) at least. Makes it difficult to read with the proper flow.
    But I can still feel and relate to the depths of it… 💛

    I like the way you experiment with form. Conforming to a specific form can be really useful for exploring difficult topics. I learned that in a creative non-fiction course once. Your piece is a great example of that and thus a good reminder for me. Thanks for sharing. 🌻

    1. Yeah verse block isn’t perfect, but you should be able to scroll horizontally in it, Lia… at least, on my computer and phone, that’s how it works. I agree tho…. long lines don’t look right with it.

      I feel like the greatest advantage for me of reading other poets on WP and trying out these prompts is the exposure to new forms – it’s SO much fun for me 🙂

      Thank you, Lia ❤

      -David

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