Sight, or: Sound

‘Beginning at the End’ – a d’Verse poetics prompt

Epigraph:

As if we could hear music inside the words.

Gail Newman
The intervals between our letters
are dependably constant.
Our friendship forged for the ages.
Our affection warm and lasting.
Our love spanning vast oceans and generations.
I write to you about the New York City blizzard
that has snowed us in this Chanukah, while my grandchildren
throw themselves upon my sticky jelly donuts. We are getting old,
dear friend; how many frayed and yellowed letters in shoeboxes?
Most days I usually stay at home in my cozy nightgown. I look 
often at your photographs. Some days we still speak. Other 
days I reread your elegant script. Your tinkling laughter
continues to ring in every syllable.

At d’Verse, we were asked to write a poem inspired by the final line of another poet’s work, among a list of several. We were allowed to use the line as an epigraph at the beginning of the poem. I chose the line from Gail Newman’s poem ‘Trust’ as my epigraph.

We were specifically instructed to: write our poems as continuations of where the poets of our choice left off, thematically, in the same mood, rather than literally, giving special thought to our own final lines.


Trust

by Gail Newman

The country between us
has no borders.
The barbed wire has been cut.
The walls decimated.
The moat drained beneath the bridge.
I cross over to you carrying a metal lunch pail
filled with bologna sandwiches, mayonnaise
spread from crust to crust.  We sit
in the grass, our skirts spread over pale legs.
Some days I wear jeans, a blouse with open collar.
I look into your face as into a mirror. Some days we speak.
Other times we remain silent. As if we could hear
music inside the words.

93 thoughts on “Sight, or: Sound”

  1. Brilliant! I mean, the very functional motivation behind it, yes, but even more, the sentiment that seals such a touching and simple history. Nicely done, mate.

  2. Love where you’ve taken this ben, I so like how you paint in the figures, a detail at a time, the cozy nightgown, the NY blizzard, the letter, the photograph, as if time had both stopped and stretched in that borderless country. Bravo.

  3. Lovely poem, David! ❤ A sentimental tribute to long-distance friendship sustained over time. The quoted epigraph blends seamlessly into the poem and is beautifully paraphrased in the final line. Perfectly-chosen photo. Wonderful post! 🙂

    Hope all is well!

  4. Wonderful David! This is so great and heartfelt! it really is hard to communicate with parents who live afar! Love how she hears the music in the words unspoken. Very nice take on the prompt!
    Dwight

  5. Excellent!. The continuity between your piece and Gail Newman’s poem, to me, was flawless. Love the imagery of missing a dear friend. Bravo, David.

  6. A sentimental poem about enduring friendship, David. You maintained the mood of the first poem and created an engaging and dear story.

    I love this description~
    “yellowed letters in shoeboxes”

  7. This is really good, David: your poem reminded me of my grandma, who kept correspondence with friends from the old days until she was the only one left. She was the ‘last woman standing.’ She kept letters and photos in boxes just like you describe.

    1. Ingrid, thank you!

      I was, indeed, trying to make this as realistic as possible – the shoeboxes somehow felt plausible to me 🙂

      -David

  8. I love the conversational tone in this. It does feel like a letter, but it’s a poem at the same time. Some great images of age and long-standing friendship.

  9. I so relate to this poem, David, which describes perfectly what has happened to my long-distance friendship with a very old, dear friend, who I lost and then found again. I enjoyed the very personal details of the grandchildren and the sticky jelly donuts at the centre of the poem and the ‘frayed and yellowed letters in shoeboxes’. I used to keep letters and cards in shoeboxes too!

  10. There are few things more bitter-sweet than people at the end of their lives running through their collection of memories and hanging onto the sound of a voice trying not to let it slip away. Beautifully done.

  11. I love the image here….and the poetic letter inspired by the quotation you’ve chosen. I am one of the few holdouts, asking for stationery every year as a gift, and still exchanging letters with a few close friends. I occasionally send them to my grandchildren as well and have been told they are very excited to receive them. There is something special about letters….and in this case the words you use here to describe this very special relationship. The words “elegant script” speak to the age of this person….she grew up in the days when handwriting/script was taught in school. A beautiful response to the prompt.

  12. It’s extremely tricky and difficult to blend in other’s perspective with your own. You’ve done an amazing job, Ben. Loved it.

        1. Atrija, no need to apologize at all! Perhaps I did not understand what you meant – I apologize for the confusion ❤

        2. No worries, David. Kindly don’t apologise. Nothing that a proper communication can’t solve! It was just a miscommunication on both the ends.:)

  13. I love those pauses between words… as if the rhythm of our voice grows from the silence rather than the drumbeats of sound… also those shoeboxes of letters made me shivers as I have recently seen how much my parents had kept

  14. “We sit in the grass, our skirts spread over pale legs. Some days I wear jeans, a blouse with open collar. I look into your face as into a mirror. Some days we speak.
    Other times we remain silent,”… this is such a deeply moving poem, David! It makes me wonder if words are ever sufficient to truly put our feelings across… perhaps silence expresses more .. as emotion sings in long pauses. 💝💝

  15. Writing letters! No such warmth to be saved and reread and savored in emails. symphony. in the digital world has been captured and contained on YouTube. But a handwritten letter…now that is a symphony. (K)

      1. Interesting. My older daughter is not that much younger than you, but I don’t ever remember her writing more than the obligatory thank you. I had many pen pals, and every once in awhile search online for the one from Ceylon/Sri Lanka, whom I lost touch with during the years of unrest. Unfortunately the letters were lost during one of my many moves–I would love to have them now.

  16. I love that you were inspired by a different poem.
    During the lockdown for CoVid I started to throw away old letters. Last week I found a letter my grandmother wrote to my mother just a few months before her death in 1948.
    Made me really appreciate the shoebox full of letters with love in every syllable.

    1. Thanks, Marie! In truth, I was just following the prompt from d’Verse – but, yes, the poem itself (rather than just its last line) inspired me – particularly because yesterday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day (by coincidence), which relates directly to Gail Newman!

      Yours,
      David

  17. I’ll be honest… I didn’t really *feel* this one. Not sure why. Maybe it is fiction? I’ve most been moved by your “David’s perspective” ones. (I say this mostly so you know I’m not just flattering you on those… :)) 💛

    1. Lia,

      I’ll be honest… I agree with you.

      I’m pretty good at fiction, but sometimes I feel that I use it to avoid writing about what’s really going on with me – it comes easier and has less emotional weight – so it’s an easier way to respond to a prompt.

      so – I’m totally with you – this poem felt somewhat insignificant to me when I wrote it. And also – for me personally, it doesn’t feel super poetic either.

      Yours 🙂
      David

      1. Hugs man. You are honestly awesome. 🤜✨🤛 Thanks for the process explanation. Totally rad. (and… I mean that. 🙌)

        1. and – two more thoughts:

          1) I think my Mom would agree with you.

          2) given your usual style and content, your comment doesn’t surprise me at all 🙂

        2. 1) 😃 honoured. :))
          2) 😂 I know right? I kinda wanted to de-justify my “judgement” with that exact statement, but I couldn’t find the right words. I do consider you to be a genius. Hope you know that. 🤓

        3. Thank you, Lia – that is very, very kind.

          I do take pride in my smarts, but I am certain that I am not a genius (and that’s not humility speaking).

          Even my father who was a truly brilliant mathematician wasn’t a genius in my estimate, and I’m pretty sure he was smarter than me (although that is subjective so I could be wrong – don’t actually know what our respective IQs were)

          Anyway, thank you again – your compliment makes me happy particularly because it comes from you.

          Yours,
          David

        4. Ok David… I will trust your judgement, though you are pretty damned smart, and a hyper-original and creative specimen, in these parts. :)) Love hearing more of your story… My dad was/is a mathematician too. Also brilliant, in his own way. And for the heartwarming words… thank you. :))

        5. 💝 🙏 💝 🙏 💝 🙏
          🙏 💝 🙏 💝 🙏 💝
          💝 🙏 💝 🙏 💝 🙏
          🙏 💝 🙏 💝 🙏 💝
          💝 🙏 💝 🙏 💝 🙏
          🙏 💝 🙏 💝 🙏 💝

  18. Using lines as prompts from two different writers, you have managed to make this poem feel, intensely personal…intensely yours David. Mazel tov!

  19. I loved the poem to your father on another post. It was very touching. Your father
    must have been a really nice man.
    Gwen.

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