Poetry: A Missed Opportunity

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I’ve been so busy trying to write curricula1 that I haven’t had the time or energy to write much of anything for myself. So when a friend told me a story recently, I grabbed hold to see where it would go.

What emerged was a prose-poem…of sorts. Though I’m never really sure exactly what one is, I’ve played with the form. I’m studying prose poems by the likes of Louis Jenkins, Mary Oliver, and, one poem in particular by Robert Hass, A Story About the Body.

From Jane Hirshfield (Nine Gates: entering the mind of poetry) I learned that Japanese poetry “speaks of the nioi, it’s fragrance, and hibiki, reverberation, as qualities equal in standing to its ‘content.'” The prose poems I’m studying all seem to contain a rich layer of detail, even different stories, piled on top of each other. The close proximity of these stories creates almost a harmonic vibration, a polyphony, a resonant subterranean hum, which I love to listen to. Maybe all poetry does that?

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately, this way that stories slice time into measures that we play in the heart. Depending on where you end and where you start, a different tune emerges. What stories do you tell? Where do they end? Where do they start?

A Missed Opportunity

A friend told me about deer hunting recently; about how he spotted some wary does a good distance from the tree stand; about the long wait for them to come closer; about finally letting loose with one, then two, then the last of his three arrows, all missing their mark at that great distance. And then, only after the arrows were spent, did the does approach the stand, mere feet away when the buck arrived (eight points!), their close-breath pungent, their dew-wet bodies steaming in the cool dawn. What is the point of a story? Years ago we both felt a coldness grow; eventually our hearts became hard, then brittle. Do you remember? Our silence wrapped tightly around those days. And so we watched the years unravel like an old sweater. Once the yarn got wound back into a ball, needles clicked again. That’s what I mean when I say be patient. Stories end and begin in the heart. So will yours.

–Steve Peterson, 2015


  1. …which is, really, just to say that I have been barely keeping my head above the waterline that is daily life as a teacher, enough above to make a living, but not enough above to breathe very deeply, or to make a life, if you know what I mean? And there is a story that I need to tell about writing curriculum, too, and what that does to the soul.

2 thoughts on “Poetry: A Missed Opportunity

    • Thanks, Mary Lee. It pried a few more poems loose, which was a good outcome, even if this one is a bit rough. Working on some poems about crows, sort of, and the temporary nature of things. I see that you are going to write a haiku a day soon? I think I’ll try some tanka, since I really love that form. Best to you!

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