‘…What Should I Be?’

Upon awakening this morning

I worked on my first ghazal poem awhile yesterday in the late afternoon and into the night just before bed. The traditional ghazal form contains the same word at the end of each last line of the couplets and a word that rhymes with that end word is placed before it. In the Persian tradition, the poems would often be about some form of love, longing, or spiritual awareness. The author would traditionally include their name in the last stanza.

You may know I like structure but for me it’s structure that’s natural to me that I like and keep. The poem I wrote last night has really fit the ‘rules’ and a certain variation I’d done I’d read about this morning would’ve been a rule commonly interpreted individually by the authors. I didn’t keep a set number of beats for each line, which is optional in English.

My ghazal is so newly written I haven’t declared it finished just yet but the experience of writing it was exhilarating, almost a little chilling, as I’d found it natural to write and my poem felt like it was unfolding in the form without me studying the rules as I wrote it.

Peeko was very impressed with the sight of a paper pad and pen and stood ready to write his own poem. He’d just enjoyed all his daily meals and was very worked up with the set up for a poem as he enjoys art and a sense of accomplishment.

Peeko’s with my draft that I’d started handwritten and continued on my laptop. Sometime ago cardinals had been ready to move onto the balcony roof and Peeko was impressed with them. They’d all become fast friends, but he also felt they were kind of pathetic. They decided not to make the nest. He just heard some birdcalls when I took this photo as if ‘Do I hear some new loser birds?’ 😊

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Here is a poem by the New England, New York author Edna St. Vincent Millay. She is well-known for writing in forms like sonnets and her own unknown, unnamed forms, which were often a combination of a steady rhythm and more flexible rhyme scheme. This poem of hers I’ve loved and mentioned the other day is from her book, A Few Figs From Thistles (1920).

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The Singing-Woman from the Wood’s Edge

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

What should I be but a prophet and a liar,
Whose mother was a leprechaun, whose father was a friar?
Teethed on a crucifix and cradled under water,
What should I be but the fiend’s god-daughter?

And who should be my playmates but the adder and the frog,
That was got beneath a furze-bush and born in a bog?
And what should be my singing, that was christened at an altar,
But Aves and Credos and Psalms out of the Psalter?

You will see such webs on the wet grass, maybe,
As a pixie-mother weaves for her baby,
You will find such flame at the wave’s weedy ebb
As flashes in the meshes of a mer-mother’s web,

But there comes to birth no common spawn
From the love of a priest for a leprechaun,
And you never have seen and you never will see
Such things as the things that swaddled me!

After all’s said and after all’s done, 
What should I be but a harlot and a nun?

In through the bushes, on any foggy day,
My Da would come a-swishing of the drops away,
With a prayer for my death and a groan for my birth,
A-mumbling of his beads for all that he was worth.

And there sit my Ma, her knees beneath her chin,
A-looking in his face and a-drinking of it in,
And a-marking in the moss some funny little saying
That would mean just the opposite of all that he was praying!

He taught me the holy-talk of Vesper and of Matin,
He heard me my Greek and he heard me my Latin,
He blessed me and crossed me to keep my soul from evil,
And we watched him out of sight, and we conjured up the devil!

Oh, the things I haven’t seen and the things I haven’t known,
What with hedges and ditches till after I was grown,
And yanked both ways by my mother and my father,
With a “Which would you better?” and a “Which would you rather?”

With him for a sire and her for a dam,
What should I be but just what I am?

—Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Yesterday evening: Blush and Plenty of It

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