Structured Thinking with a Bit of Flex

A tiny bit more structured introspective assessment, please. Nothing imbued with gravitas, though; let’s keep it light and airy, to the extent introspection makes that possible. Keep it flexible so it can bend the way my mind bends. Mind-bending. Does that suggest the use of drugs? It was not meant to; I’m on drugs, but none that have any enjoyable side-effects to accompany their danger. Already off track.

I wonder whether other people experience intellectual and/or emotional periods in their lives that surprise them? By that, I mean I am curious as to whether others find themselves suddenly thinking, “I thought this issue [whatever it is] was put to bed years or decades ago.”

The issue on my mind this morning is narrative/free form poetry versus rhyming poetry. Until only a few months ago (with occasional interruptions), I thought I had long-since decided I did not enjoy writing and only rarely enjoyed reading rhyming poems. But, then, out of the cerulean sky (I can’t help myself), I found myself rather enamored of writing poems with various rhyme schemes.  As I tried my hand at rhyming poems again after approximately forty years (again, with the occasional dip back in the pool of rhymes), I discovered some of them are rather difficult. And I learned, or re-learned, that poetry can be considerably more complex than I once thought. Though I do not pretend to remember (if I ever knew) all the myriad poetic structures and schemes, I think I remember enough to be dangerous. I remember terms like iambic pentameter, couplets (of various types), stanzas, rhyme patters, and so forth. But beyond that, my mind remains just as cloudy as it ever was.

While I was in school, I was frankly bored with the seemingly endless complexity of poetry. I had no interest in rhyme patterns, pentameters, couplets, and haiku. It was a bit like the visual arts for me; I knew what I liked, though I knew not why. And I didn’t have an interest in finding out why. Did others feel the same way? I can say with certainty many in my schools did. I am surprised I did, though, given the fact that my mother was an English teacher and was enamored of such stuff; she even enjoyed diagramming sentences, which I believed should be made illegal, inasmuch as it amounted to torture. As an aside, though, apparently I learned from her by osmosis; I never even learned all the terminology of grammar, but I know how to frame grammatically correct sentences.

With all that as an unnecessary backdrop, I wrote a rhyming poem during the last couple of days. If my understanding of poetry’s terminology is correct, it is written as a series of heroic couplets that incorporate the same meter (with a number of exceptions that I may one day “fix” so the poem fits the “rules” of poetry; a term I find offensive when applied to poetry for some reason).

I tired of writing it as I neared what is, for now, the end. If I weren’t so damn lazy, I would have continued working on it, rather than simply tacking on an ending. But I’m lazy. So the poem is missing some stanzas; probably a good four our five maybe more. With the addition of those stanzas, it might tell a more complete story. But the fact is, those stanzas remain somewhere in my head and they may never find their way out. I think, even in their absence, this poem is adequate. It could be better. Oh, well. So could I.

Kingdom of the Time of the Dead

When bodies were buried and headstones were carved,
we worshiped at altars and prayed to the stars.
We thought death was transition to more than mere dust.
Our lives seemed to matter, the world seemed more just.

Once we depended on old time religion
when poetry was pure and somewhat Coleridgean.
That time when churches soothed our hard souls,
lives dedicated to loftier goals.

We’ve since abandoned that old superstition.
We’re lost, we’re lost, where’s our sense of contrition?
We’ve grown weary of caring, we tire of sympathy,
gone are our values, we’ve lost the meaning of empathy.

Oh let us recover our sacredness, please,
that piece of existence we once chose to seize.
Oh please let us remember our duty to Love,
to cherish and honor the matters thereof.

I once walked through graveyards and thought of the dead,
of the lives they once lived and the words they once said.
The wind often whispered of those who had died
and it spoke of their stories and the tears they had cried.

But now the flowers are wilting and the headstones are broken
as if memories have faded, their  names no longer spoken.
Those lives that once mattered are just history lost
and the cold winter winds coat the graveside with frost.

The dead don’t remember, nor do the living.
We can’t seem to recall, yet the dead are forgiving.
Now we just leave them to rot in the grave,
with no compensation for the lives that they gave.

We no longer bury them, there’s no ritual now.
It’s easier, faster to just mumble a vow,
as we scorch them, torch them, and set them ablaze,
but we can’t watch them burn, averting our gaze.

Oh this loss of solemnity is truly not real,
this scarce wave of contrition, just sorrow we feel
for the way we squandered the lives we have led
as we enter the kingdom of the time of the dead.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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