Reblogged on 6-24–made some edits on one of my most popular posts ever.
This post has been edited to include a text version of the poem below, since some readers told me the .jpg was hard to read. To view the intentional line endings, please do refer to the image version, which you can click on to expand.
I also realized I was remiss in not including a picture of my other baby referred to in the poem, Chad–so he now joins Oreo in the photos below. : o3
Sorry if you were counting on a post yesterday for NaPoWriMo– I had an early morning meeting yesterday, and by the time I sat down to write my post last night, I was drifting off! I figured I’d be better off just posting today, especially because I wanted to do this topic justice.
Yesterday’s NaPoWriMo prompt was this:
Early on in the month, I asked you to write a valediction — a poem of farewell. Today, let’s try the opposite, and write poems of greeting.
What a cute potential! Poems of farewell make me think of deaths, in general, even though my poem wasn’t exactly a literal death–but needless to say, unless they are satirical, they are usually sad and mournful. In case you missed it, you can see my blog post about poems of farewell and thoughts about writing about grief here. So conversely, a greeting poem makes me think of birth and happiness.
…and that made me think about when we met our son, Oreo. I call him my “son” because I don’t think “pet” adequately describes the relationship. Jennifer and I were in our twenties when we got our first “pet” (besides fish), Chad, and I think we skipped that whole childhood stage of knowing what it’s like to have a pet right to the adult stage of what it’s like to have a child.
I wanted to write this poem about the happiest moment of my life: when we met Oreo. Falling in love with Chad was a more gradual process, though no less happy–but it was too gradual to be described as a “moment.” My thoughts about it naturally took the form of telling the story to Oreo directly, almost like a letter. The thoughts flowed strongly and were large and sweeping, directing me to put this into a prose poem format.
You couldn’t see this with my last prose poem posting, because it was recorded from the radio, but the form is a blend of standard narrative and poetry. There are a few differences between straight-up narrative and prose poetry, though, especially in the sentence structures and vocabulary. Keeping a natural voice is not as important as creating images and feelings, for one. Also, my poetry teacher taught us, to our chagrin, that it is important to end each line with a strong, deliberate word, just like other poetic styles, but that because it is prose poetry, you should aim for a block-like shape. This combination of requirements is quite difficult, and you find yourself playing with rhythms and lengths of words just as much as other poetic styles.
I am posting this poem as an image, so that no matter what size of screen you are viewing this on, you can see the shape of the poem and the line endings as I meant them to be. (You can click on the image for a more clear display.) I did try to keep it in a block shape, but the three words that stick out farthest (and the inner-most one at the end) are meant to be the most significant.
To view the poem as text, scroll past the image. The line endings won’t be intentional, but I’ve heard it’s easier to read (not as bright).
By: Amanda K. Fowler
When people ask me what my happiest memory is, I tell them about you. But the story doesn’t start with you, or maybe it’s that your story began before I met you. I think the happiest times in our lives are the upswings from sadness; the cups of our hearts can fill with the most bliss once they have been emptied. My cup was a leaden void, a great black hole encompassed by despair, starting in August 2011 when our first baby died. I knew I would never heal, would never be happy again. I felt my grief was proof Chad had ever existed, that he still existed, somewhere. The grief became my happiness, my new mission, until September 19th. From somewhere unknown, I felt a guiding push—I called every single Petco within 50 miles to ask if they had any guinea pigs who loved to cuddle. It was crazy, and I could hear as much in the receptionists’ voices as they told me there was no way to know, but that guinea pigs were animals with soft coats. “No,” I said, “no.” I mean, yes, of course they were soft. But I wasn’t looking for an animal or a texture. I was trying to find my son, a baby boy, and then I realized that push was Chad; his paw was guiding us from Heaven to find you. I said “thank you” and hung up, because how could I explain any of that? Finally, one of the stores put me on hold, maybe to look up a number to tell me to get help, I thought, but actually their guinea pig expert wanted to talk to me. “There is one who loves to cuddle more than anything,” he said. “He’s the biggest, because he’s been here awhile, but he’s really sweet.” Our baby had been waiting for us to find him. And though we hadn’t really discussed bringing another life into our home, hadn’t decided if or when, we all knew it now, and we inhaled our dinners and sped off to meet you. The car ride felt like forever, and Jennifer didn’t even wait for the car to stop before running out of it, didn’t even close the car door, was halfway across the parking lot before the car was parked. My hands shook with excitement as I asked the front desk for the “guinea pig expert,” and he smiled when he saw us and put his hands gently inside the glass tank where you had been standing, uncomfortable with your size versus the others’, and you felt us watching you and tried to hide, suddenly shy, but eventually decided you were ready. Then they put you on my lap and you walked across the plane of my denim skirt, tentative at first, and we were shocked you didn’t look like Chad, shocked at your crest, which was white and sprung out from your grey crown in a heart. But you weren’t Chad, weren’t meant to be, and I cried in relief, because the guilt I didn’t know I’d had was melting away with every step your feet pattered on my legs, and it was nearly gone by the time you curled yourself into a soft loaf shape in my arms, nuzzling your face into the crook of my elbow. For the first time, I realized my grief wasn’t keeping Chad’s memory alive, it was our love, our love that he wanted us to feel again, with you. Jennifer was already paying for you before I realized you were ours; you were sent to heal us, to love us, and to show me how wrong I’d been—because not only would I be happy again, but I already was. The cup of my heart was full of love for both of my babies: Chad and Oreo.