We didn’t just break;
We shattered.

Smashed irreparably into fragments.

I cannot conceive that time will grind
The shards of us to sand.

Where do all the squirrels go?

Where do all the squirrels go?
Do they sleep in beds?
Do they nest up in the trees
Where leaves protect their heads?
Do they hide near river banks
And burrow in the mud?
Do they hunker down in caves
With campfires made of wood?

I don’t know where the squirrels go
But I hope that they are well.
I hope that they feel safe and warm
Throughout this chilly spell.

Poem edits: I want to write you songs

This week, I spent a bit of time curating my poems. A few needed minor edits but one in particular needed more work. I thought it might be interesting to share that with you.

This follows on from my previous blog posts, what is a poem and how to write a poem.

I originally wrote I want to write you songs in December 2018.

When I re-read my poems, I generally remember writing them. The ones I most enjoy crystallise a specific moment in time– not just the memory, but the feeling. That feeling might not be related to the subject of the poem. In fact,  it’s usually kind of mundane.
It’s like being able to see myself as a stranger. That’s my favourite thing about writing.

When I originally posted the poem, I felt that it had potential.
I wasn’t totally happy with it but, at the time, I didn’t know how to make it work better.
I didn’t think it was bad, but it didn’t hit all the right beats.
It wasn’t unfinished, but I knew it would benefit from more work.

So here are the two versions of the poem side-by-side (you can also find the new version here).

The red text was removed in the re-edit, the blue text was moved or reworded, and the green text was added.

Poem edit

What did I learn?

1. The first version of the poem suffered from too many ideas.

  • There were phrases and images that I enjoyed, but I couldn’t make them fit well in this poem. That’s not to say they wouldn’t work in another poem. Equally, they just might not work in which case I can let them go.
  • It is possible to explain a thing too much. Being able to extend a metaphor doesn’t mean that you should. Sometimes stating an idea is enough.
  • On the plus side, I won’t complain about having too many ideas.

2. Structure is important.

  • The original poem is less easy to follow. I move between different metaphors and subjects. I like it when a poem feels like a good conversation. Moving things around in the re-edit helped the logical progression of ideas.

3. Words are hard.

  • I like to play with technical language. I find wordplay and double-entendre satisfying. However, in the first version,  too much of this can compromise the intent I’m trying to express.
  • Simple words can do the job.
  • This poem might be written to be read aloud. I’d like to become better at distinguishing spoken word from written word. I’d like to better understand how to exist in that overlap.

Speaking of the spoken word

I record myself reading my poems. Here are the two poems for comparison:

Old version

New version

I think the recent version is an improvement. I’d like to say something more insightful but I think it might be a little too close to home.

It still isn’t finished. 

I just don’t think the poem is quite there yet, you know?

It’s worth saying that this poem might not ever be done. I don’t think all poems need to feel finished. Some poems, including this one, are a stimulus for other poems.

I think my favourite poems are my most authentic. I guess this poem isn’t true– I don’t really want to write you songs. This poem was more of a writing exercise; me playing with language.

The truth in this poem is that I feel frustrated when lack the capacity to express how I feel with words. Especially feelings that are worth sharing with other people; especially love.
The truth in this poem is accepting that it isn’t always possible to capture my feelings in words.

I have other poems that do a better job of expressing that truth. It might be okay to leave I want to write you songs here.

What do you think? 

What changes would you have made? What approaches do you use to edit your work? 


I want to write you songs

I often write you poems, but I want to write you songs.

Simple syllable structures do not adequately capture your complexities.
The staccato of careful couplets cannot convey your dulcet dynamism.

I would sing to you in bird squawks and animal growls;
My shy tongue unable enunciate your beauty.
Even in song, I would fail to articulate your significance to me.

You are pure symphony.
An orchestra would better capture the melodic cacophony of your perfect contradictions.

I would transpose words for notes and beats;
Encode emotion in a worthier form of art.
I would write refrains for us to hum together;
A new lexicon of love.

I want to write you songs but instead I write you poems

Knowing words alone, no matter how carefully arranged,
Will never quite be enough.


Fresh herbs in the freezer

In this fantasy, I keep fresh herbs in the freezer.
I’ve gained enough wisdom to accept that potted plants will always wither on my windowsill. It’s okay.
There is perfect satisfaction as I crumble frosted foliage between my fingers.
I savour the slow release of aroma as I watch lively greens unthaw, and then melt into a wholesome meal.

I’m always in heels. My calves are bare and smooth.
Elegant hems of feminine fabrics graze my soft knees.
My hair is long but neat. I wear make-up but not too much.
I smell of my mum’s moisturiser and I regularly wash my hands.
I catch myself smiling when I look in the mirror.
I wear loose warm knits. I give the safest hugs.

It’s sunny most days. I sit at the kitchen table and sip milky coffee.
I thumb through a newspaper; its fresh ink is tacky on my fingers.
A cryptic crossword keeps me busy until mid-morning but I’m always able to complete it.

On the days when it rains, I listen. Polite droplets whisper good morning against the glass of my streak-less windows.
There is quiet applause from the trees outside as their leaves shake off the downpour.
I always feel inspired.

In this fantasy, the spices in my cupboard are kept in matching glass jars.
I have one set of cutlery. Every utensil fits my hand precisely and is just the right weight.
I buy myself flowers. I make eggs for breakfast.
The yolks are always runny and the whites are always set.