Playing Catch-Up: Running Circles Round Myself

a circle closes, tight and smooth —
a seamless join.
leaves no
of storms, struggles,
the between. leaves

I have found that, when I’m in a place where everyone is speaking a language I don’t know, if I stop trying, stop working at understanding what’s going on, I often magically begin to understand what people are talking about. I can’t respond, of course. I don’t, after all, speak the language, but I can follow the general idea of the conversation. I’ve had this happen with both Russian and Hungarian. I’m sure this has something to do with body language, with tone and inflection, with eye contact. Who knows? But the fact remains that understanding dawns when I stop trying to force it.

Yes, of course this is about my work with the Zeno.* A few nights ago I had decided that I’d met my match with this form, that I just couldn’t figure out another one. That was silly, of course, but that’s what I thought. So I wasn’t even going to bother trying. Then Monday night on my way home, the poem above pretty much fell into my head, nearly whole. I won’t pretend that the poem means anything, that it says something or taps into a feeling I’m having. It just is the poem that happened. A poem that happened of its own accord, randomly. Not good. Certainly not great. But anatomically correct.

And then I tried to post it and fell asleep. (My utter exhaustion continues.)

But the strange ease with which that poem made itself made me think maybe it was the same as my experience with Russian and Hungarian, maybe I’d reached some critical turning point in my Zeno writing. Yeah, not so much. On my way home last night, a poem started falling together in my head and then stuttered to a halt at line six. Feh. I forced an ending that didn’t feel right, and as I sat there staring at it … I fell asleep.

This window opens fully, wide.
A gentle nudge.
It wants
Wants a soft hand,
An easy reach,
Not too

So no magical linguistic crossing-over for me with the Zeno, but I keep at it. As for my inability to stay awake long enough to get anything published, I don’t know. Maybe if I sleep away my day on Saturday I’ll catch up with myself. Oh, and maybe if I start eating dinner every night instead of just the nights when I happen to remember …

* The poetic form I’m working with this month is the Zeno: syllable counts = 8/4/2/1/4/2/1/4/2/1, rhyme pattern = a/b/c/d/e/f/d/g/h/d.

6 thoughts on “Playing Catch-Up: Running Circles Round Myself

  1. molly

    I like the window poem quite a bit. it does not feel forced at all to me.
    As I have said before, I am impressed with your linguistic gift and believe you should treasure and nurture it. I am a language teacher and know there are people with talents. I give them/you a bow.


    1. Thanks, Molly. I think I finally reconciled myself to the Zeno by the end of the month. Not that I’m going to go on writing them, but one may turn up every now and then …


  2. Oh, and maybe if I start eating dinner every night instead of just the nights when I happen to remember …

    I think of a zeno as the salad dressing of your life. Whenever you post a poem, you surround it with a story. You write about what is going on in your life, the language thing about understanding with out knowing the language. The stories with the poem are lettuce, tomatoes, onions, perhaps a hard-boiled egg and some tuna. Some of your zeno poems are made with olive oil, and come easily to you. Already in the bottle just pour. And some of your zeno poems take longer and are harder to make. This would probably be an egg based salad dressing with a lot of steps to it.

    I enjoy the salads when you present your writing, the dressing and the lettuce. Thank you for sharing your process. ( Did you remember to eat today?)


    1. I love your salad descriptions of my writing! I am still not always remembering to have dinner. I did remember to get groceries last night, however, so I have food in the house when I do remember to cook.


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