A to Z 2016 · Poetry

U is for “Up, Revisited”

Last minute push to the end. Let’s see how quickly I can get six more posts out…

The prompt for U:

Choose a favorite poem written by somebody else, type a copy of it, delete every other line from the poem, and write your own lines to replace those you’ve deleted. Next, delete the remaining lines from the old poem so that only your lines remain. Read what you have, and revise it, adding new lines to fill in the gaps.

 

Do you know how many poems there are in the world that start with the letter U? Let me tell you, not so many. It took way longer than I imagined to find one, but find one I did:

Up by Margaret Atwood

You wake up filled with dread.
There seems no reason for it.
Morning light sifts through the window,
there is birdsong,
you can’t get out of bed.

It’s something about the crumpled sheets
hanging over the edge like jungle
foliage, the terry slippers gaping
their dark pink mouths for your feet,
the unseen breakfast–some of it
in the refrigerator you do not dare
to open–you will not dare to eat.

What prevents you The future. The future tense,
immense as outer space.
You could get lost there.
No. Nothing so simple. The past, its density
and drowned events pressing you down,
like sea water, like gelatin
filling your lungs instead of air.

Forget all that and let’s get up.
Try moving your arm.
Try moving your head.
Pretend the house is on fire
and you must run or burn.
No, that one’s useless.
It’s never worked before.

Where is it coming from, this echo,
this huge No that surrounds you,
silent as the folds of the yellow
curtains, mute as the cheerful

Mexican bowl with its cargo
of mummified flowers?
(You chose the colours of the sun,
not the dried neutrals of shadow.
God knows you’ve tried.)

Now here’s a good one:
you’re lying on your deathbed.
You have one hour to live.
Who is it, exactly, you have needed
all these years to forgive?

 

u

 

Up, Revisited

Every day, the same foreboding.
I don’t know when it happened
when the world stopped making sense.
I don’t want to see anything anymore.

Tossed off in the night, blankets
suffocated me, grasping, wrapping me like
vines, reaching down; gaudy flowers with
colors screaming me awake…
even the bedspread makes me anxious.

I lay here, my body tense,
the tense of the unknown,
the never known. But is it better?
The past tense, filled with suffering
and pain and the future only more so — it
only makes my brain think of mud
dirt and human filth.

Nothing seems to want to go.
Nothing ever seems to stay.
My body rebels against the light, and I
pretend the bed falls into a yawning hole,
or pretend that the sky is falling.
But the bed will never fall.
The sky will never fall.

How can I ignore
the quiet voice of madness,
the voice telling me to fear even the
curtains hanging over my head?

Once my mind was as sharp as a hunting knife,
as precious as the morning air, but now
I am fading into the ether. I reach out —
or I try. So very hard.
Nothing moves. Nothing changes.

What if —
What if this is over, the end?
What if there is nothing left,
to make my world complete?

 

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