As though to breathe were life

What use to stand at riverside?
To hold this feather, wishing hard
or hold my breath and listen, still
for even aftermath of storm?
Why cast these rusty strings of words,
scrape fingers raw on stumbling sounds?
As well to toss a yarn-skein high
expecting fall of gauzy dreams
to make a winter’s shawl. What use?
I’ll huddle, fireside, aching fierce
for sun. I’ll unpick stitches far
into the night. I’ll unstring words—
for nothing here is bright or sword-
like, nothing glints; and even hope
dies dim and dull, unused.

Mostly iambic tetrameter for the Yeah Write poetry slam. Title borrowed from Tennyson’s “Ulysses.”

16 thoughts on “As though to breathe were life”

    1. Thank you, Jane. Hoping to get this series to a more uplifting end…but the character (er, me?) wasn’t having it these past few days.


  1. The interplay between the things and the ideas created really strong images in my head (fingers/sounds; yarn-skeins/dreams/shawl). I yearned for winter to be done, too, even though it is.

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  2. I think many of us have been struggling for optimism of late, which is strange given the spring and summer-type warmth, if not always sunniness… But this is beautiful. I love “scrape fingers raw on stumbling sounds.”

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    1. I did get this character into a wallow-y kind of place. Thank you. I’m glad you liked that line–I knew what I wanted to convey but wasn’t sure it was working.


  3. Jennifer, there were so many precious, beautiful phrases here. It made my heart sing. Particularly the “fall of gauzy dreams” and the unstringing of words! I’ve been known to unstring words from conversations had to get at their essence. You have such a masterful way of weaving words.

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    1. Thanks, Michael. I am such a fan of Tennyson’s work. “Ulysses,” especially, has such majesty and pathos. The older I get, the more I appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

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