Monday, February 9, 2009


By now, I suppose these weekly poetic forays need little introduction. Just know that this, too, is the result of a poetry challenge asking participants to describe a moment in time using "Once upon a time" or other fairy tale language. The prompt also urged the writer not to fear the dark or the light subjects: simply write truthfully.

The Dangers of Sitting

Once upon a time,

There was a young girl

Who lived in ignorance of

What it really meant

To lose –

Not just for a day,

Not just for a season,

Not just for a year or two –

Someone who was, to her,

The earth and sky and sea.

Then one bright October day,

She came home from school,

Tired, sweaty and smiling,

And found her mother and father,

Faces grave.

They asked her to sit on the soft floral couch,

So they could tell her that Granddaddy

Had fulfilled a life-long dream:

He had finally seen the Panama Canal,

Risen slowly through her mighty locks,

Told his true love he was ready to go home,

And, within a day or two,

Sailed from the sea into eternity.

There she sat, hands sweating,

Numb, confused, disbelieving,

Backpack abandoned on the floor,

Wishing she could stand up again,

And run from the knowing

That came with the sitting.

Wishing she could somehow go back –

Just a day,

Just a season,

Just a year or two –

And, clinging to his familiar hand,

Anchor him to the earth.


Once upon a time,

On a bitter November afternoon,

I saw your smiling faces

Through the grime and din of the subway.

You, the

Loving mother

Devoted father



Only child

Wonderful friend.

Your smiles surrounded me,

And all of us engaged in the

uncharacteristically quiet bustle

from dark place to dark place

aboard the stinking, screeching trains

tunneling through the dirt.

Your eyes greeted me at every turn.

As I hugged my bag closer to me,

And tugged at my suddenly too-hot scarf.

I burned to look at you, to stare.

But I was strong, I didn’t cry,

I simply watched you watching me.

That is… until I saw that one –

The single face among the myriad faces

plastered to every column,

every wall –

The one with a joyful red scrawl:


I saw that one and could no longer ignore

What all of your unmarred faces cried:


All of you are lost.

You, the

Loving mother

Devoted father



Only child

Wonderful friend

Last seen in the vicinity of

Two tall towers that once stood

Proud vigil over the streets

of a city that promised the American dream,

and witnessed the nation’s nightmare.

For those of you who are interested, one of my complete poems from last week and a snippet from another was featured at High Calling Blogs.

The photo at the top of the post is a double-exposed gem we found when cleaning out my grandparents' house a few years ago. It features me, young and contemplative, and my grandfather. He passed away when I was 16, so this ghostly composite must have been at least 6 or 8 years old when the moment described arrived.


L.L. Barkat said...

The first poem brought tears to my eyes. The second made me shiver.

I loved the way you described his death as a journey to places he'd always wanted to see. Maybe death is like that. But we... as you say... how we fight to hold the sojourner from the flight.

Really beautiful, Nikki.

Nikki said...

Thank you, L.L.

As it happened, my grandfather's death was in international waters just outside the Panama canal, and he really *had* wanted to see it since he was young. So... I felt it very natural to describe it both literally and figuratively in the same breath. Our family, in retrospect, wondered if he knew he wouldn't return from that trip from little things he said and did before leaving and while on the ship. He really did tell my grandmother he was "ready to go home now", and that's just what he did.

His death inspired a whole lot of poetry in me in the year or two that followed his passing. After that, I quit writing poetry. It seems appropriate to start with him in my nascent adult attempts.

Erin said...

Hi Nikki,
I'm over here via LL.
Your photo inclusion is stunning. It's a poem in itself.

I like this line in your second poem about going from dark place to dark place. That's such a great metaphor.

Nikki said...

Thank you for your visit and kind words, Erin. I remember how amazed we were to find that photo - how perfectly imperfect it was. I was very glad that we didn't just toss out the twice-exposed photos without a closer look. It's nice when someone else appreciates something that has become very meaningful to me.

Jon, Erin, and Talia said...

Those are wonderful poems. Naturally, I can closely relate to the first as it brought back that old emptyness that seemingly fades but secretly lurks beneath the surface. The second was hard to read, just as I struggle to listen to Alan Jackson's "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?" What a fantastic picture. I was trying to figure out if it was a possible picture (you looking through the sliding glass door at Grandpa, the reflection giving insight to the objest of your thoughts). It is amazing that it was a "real" picture. And, it is an adorable picture of you, I might add.

Anonymous said...

Memories - very poignant from a child's view.

Anonymous said...

Both poems are beautiful! I 'see' through your images. I found the second poem very haunting. When I read the last few lines, I saw that day all over again in my mind. I whispered, 'Oh my God.'

Katrina said...

I almost wrote about my grandpa passing away, as well, but I just couldn't put all my memories of him together enough to form the words. Beautiful poem and what a treasure of a picture that is!

(...thank you for stopping by today and for you heartfelt words... I pray that all goes well for you... it was not easy for me to write what I did but it really has helped so much...)

Laura said...


Your poem speaks to the grief in me for my own grandfather, which, strangely was the content of the first poem I attempted in this poetry challenge too. I decided not to post that one, it felt too...empty? Didn't have the words. Yours are breathtaking, and the picture? Amazing.

Thank you for blessing me.

Nikki said...

Mom, Hope42Day, Katrina, (my sister) Erin, and Laura: thank you all for your encouraging and kind words about my efforts here. Ultimately these words are for myself, and I feel a certain vulnerability sharing them with others. It's nice to find that the words I string together can touch someone else, and I appreciate both your willingness to read, and your willingness to share your impressions.

RissaRoo said...

Beautiful, beautiful words! I love them both but the first one really touched my heart. And the picture! What a blessing to find that, so perfectly double-exposed to catch you both without losing anything of either, and so captivating.

Nikki said...


Thanks so much for dropping by and for your kind comment. I appreciate it!