Prose-Poetry

We interrupt this regularly scheduled post…

WKQG4943.jpgYesterday I witnessed a terrible accident.

We are driving to meet a friend for dinner, heading the opposite direction of our commute, the opposite direction of traffic. Traffic flows easily at full highway speeds, or faster perhaps.

I hear it before I see it. An explosion a quarter mile ahead. I don’t see the inciting incident, but others do. I see a smear on the diagonal vector, no longer parallel. Time is slowing down, and the cars around us pause at 65+ miles an hour.

The nose of the car shoots up into the air, points at the sky. A metal pirouette, a Nancy Rubins’ in real life. It lands on its side and in some complicated equation of forces, begins to tumble. I am pulling right hard: the road ahead is a cloud of debris, spinning off at impossible angles.

And I watch it go 1…no, no, no, no, no…2….no, no, no, no…3 lanes of traffic, wheels over roof. It slams mid-somersault into the earthen embankment on the shoulder with another explosion of dirt.

shit. shit. shit.

And tumbles back to rest on its roof in the slow lane.

Call 9-1-1! Call 9-1-1! I shout and we are out of the car, running. Others are running too, converging on the car. Colored fluids are pouring from its exposed silver belly. Every one of our faces is a grim mask.

Because we are sure the people in that car are dead. Maybe not yet, but soon.

Instead, there she is: a woman on her hands and knees, looking up at us out of an upside-down window frame.

“It’s only me in the car. I’m okay. I was wearing my seatbelt.”

She is bleeding from small cuts all over her legs, the glass pressed through her pantyhose; she is dusty;

and she is okay.

As we help her out of the car, there is only the present, no past and no future. It occurs to me: I witnessed an honest-to-god miracle.

That feeling has stayed with me since yesterday.  It happened in an instant is always the cliché on accidents, and we are taught to always avoid clichés, but, but, but

I think over and over again…

Be kind.
Drive like you care about life.
Wear your seatbelt.

They talk about events that shake you up, make you see the world fresh, stripped of the illusion of security and ground, as Buddhist teachers say – and this was one of them. That second to the last statement is for the driver who hit the woman; witnesses said he was weaving erratically between lanes and speeding when he clipped the woman’s back bumper and sent her car spinning. She told us that she never saw him coming and never knew what hit her. Photograph by me, a blurry version of this Silent Sunday. Nancy Rubins creates fantastic (and often massive) sculptures out of recycled metal parts – you can see examples of her work here

Old Poem Saturday – To other Lands – Whitman

TootherLands_Whitman2

To be found in the chapter of Leaves of Grass entitled “Messenger Leaves” are a number of short “message poems” – starting with a direct address to the reader in “To You, Whoever You Are” and branching out to all sorts of people in all kinds of situations and all over the world. “To other Lands” is one of those messages. Photographs (taken from window of the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory Visitor Center) and composition by me.

Short Poems: Mini, micro, and nano?

So far, I have illustrated a number of epigrams (traditionally a two line poem with title) and one haiku (traditionally a three line poem with a set number of syllables and a title), but as a person who studies microscopic things for a living, I was curious to see how minimal poetry could go. Without further ado, I present the monostich:

Thecathedralis“The Cathedral is” by John Ashbery (b. 1927), photographs (of the Pooh Stump at Harvard) and composition by me.

Coward

“Coward” by A.R. Ammons (1926-2001), photograph and composition by me.  A monostich is a single line poem with or without a title. It is fascinating to think of what constitutes a “minimal set” of characteristics or requirements for a poem – does a single line suffice? How many words to we need? Can symbols replace words? Terry Ehret used an Egyptian hieroglyph as the title of one of her prose-poems:

papyrus_cropExcerpt from [Papyrus] by Terry Ehret, from Lost Bodies. Here the title is replaced by a symbol and begins her prose-poem that interprets it.  Can a title with a symbol be a poem?

Poem (if you will), drawing of the international symbol for “caustic chemical” (ink on paper), by me.  Do extremely short poems live at the intersection of poetry and art?