By Marie F Martin
My novel Harbored Secrets asked to be told in first person after part of the first draft was written. So following my muse I switched from third person to the more immediate first person. That gained me a dilemma. I needed to tell Blinny’s father’s thoughts on two occasions. When he learned about his son and why he left France. I reduced the two scenes into poetry for Blinny to read. I worked for weeks figuring out how to reshape the pages of description and dialogue in a poem. The following is what I came up with for his history.
The man that was me wrote the unbidden,
The rhythm wouldn’t, couldn’t stay hidden.
Words flowed from exhaustion buried in him,
Earned by doing what never should be.
His daughters sent away on rails of iron,
As he watched, hidden behind the grain tower,
Choking back bile in a throat way tight,
‘til the last of the train was lost to sight.
Unending grief, and he cursed at his trials
as his wagon rolled the childless miles,
moved by a team simply given their head
by a man with a spirit totally dead.
Finally his fields, the ones of his own,
appeared in the dusk looking darker of tone.
Hues of caramel touched his over ripe grain.
He needed to harvest ‘ere the next rain.
But now he had time, he would hurry no more.
He’d gather the crop to calm his heart sore.
A house he’d rebuild, and find a new wife,
to sire sons and put an end to the strife.
He guided the team past his house all burned,
And away from the charred chimney he turned.
But magnet of sorrow it drew him once more,
And forced him to write of a lad and a war.
Mortar shells blew holes in houses of stone.
He ran and he ran, terrified and alone.
He fell near rubble, the church o’ his youth?
He saw the lone cross, a symbol of truth.
Oh God let this be your heavenly sign,
spare my family, they’re all that is mine.
Finally he reached the house he called home.
Part of the roof blown down on the loam.
Inside his mother and sister lay entwine
hugging in death as if they were fine.
The pool of blood that ran below them
was darker, far darker than ink from his pen.
Parts of his father scattered the ground.
The lad that was still wanders around
inside the heart of the man, that was me.
I share this as a suggestion to any poet who is struggling with an idea to write it as a scene first and get the feeling of what mood you want. That helped me.
My grandfather wrote poetry in this prairie house. In the 1930s.