Autobiography of a Poem

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When first I wake to rosy dawn, fresh from dreams of heaven, all life ahead of me and all things possible, I see myself an epic: great, a world-encompassing story of heroic deeds and tales of gods.  When my days begin to lengthen I bethink myself an ode: still heroic, honouring bravery and great power, but brought down to size, fitting the measure of one human life.  As I grow into callow youth, into the sweet Elizabethan spring of life, I am enchanted by the lyric and believe if I can be a sonnet with one clear thought, whole and complete like a full-blown rose, that will be accomplishment enough.  In middle life the wind changes and scatters the petals of my verse.  I lose metre and rhyme and blurt out only lines here and there of free verse or poetic prose, stumbling and stuttering like gunfire on a death-strewn field, all light and possibilities lost, or driven helpless in a sinking raft against a rockbound, twisting riverbank, a desolate threnody.  Standing alone upon this shattered field in twilight’s calm, the rapids safely shot and I still alive, I think perhaps I am an elegy, honouring what has gone before, the fallen dreams, ideals that died, all trampled now in mud and mire and blood, or drowned beneath a foaming wave.  But even as I move to close my book, the darkening shadows blotting out my words, I turn to take another look.  In a black sky stars blink on, planets in their stately dance proceed, the moon smiles with a face lit by the hidden sun.  Perhaps my life has been a paean: a hymn of praise, of thanks for being.  I’ll spend the night thus, singing praises of the power that moves the stars and wait with certainty the coming dawn.

First written 29.7.2007/edited 21.4.2019

4 responses »

  1. Wow! Brilliant, Jean. I will return to this a few more times, as I’ve done twice already. The way you envisioned the stages of your life as an “autobiography of a poem” was–well, as I said–brilliant. I loved that as you near the end of the metaphor, you “take a turn to have another look”, and at that point, describe your life as having been a “paean”–a hymn of praise–continuing on from there “to wait with certainty the coming dawn.” Lovely. The CBC Poetry Contest is on now, and as I’ve said before, your poems are worthy of consideration and of winning!

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