What makes a paragraph a prose poem? Hard to say… The first one I posted remains one of my favorites, A Story about the Body, by Robert Hass. It does tell a story, but it’s more than a story. This one, by Tom Hennen, starts out simply as prose, but then goes somewhere else.
Report from the West
Snow is falling west of here. The mountains have more than a
foot of it. I see the early morning sky dark as night. I won’t lis-
ten to the weather report. I’ll let the question of snow hang.
Answers only dull the senses. Even answers that are right often
make what they explain uninteresting. In nature the answers
are always changing. Rain to snow, for instance. Nature can
let the mysterious things alone—wet leaves plastered to tree
trunks, the intricate design of fish guts. The way we don’t fall
off the earth at night when we look up at the North Star. The
way we know this may not always be so. The way our dizziness
makes us grab the long grass, hanging by our fingertips on the
edge of infinity.
Tom Hennen, “Report from the West” from Darkness Sticks to Everything: Collected and New Poems.
Perhaps this has happened to you: you wake in the night with a revelation–the solution to a problem, the perfect start or end of a poem, something important and unforgettable. You know you should write it down, this has happened before and you never remember in the morning, but THIS time it’s too memorable. You know you won’t forget, and you’re still partly asleep and the pen and paper aren’t to hand and you turn over saying the phrase over to yourself and in the morning, of course, it’s gone. Here’s a version of this by Dorianne Laux:
Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
Now, I remember only the flavor —
not like food, sweet or sharp.
More like a fine powder, like dust.
And I wasn’t elated or frightened,
but simply rapt, aware.
That’s how it is sometimes —
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you’re just too tired to open it.
You can see her new website here, and I reviewed her new and selected poems, Only As the Day Is Long, for PoetryFlash two years ago.
In response to the drought, I’m cutting back on my drip irrigation, but the garden to date has never been so beautiful. Before it withers a bit, here are some shots:
Something a little different for summer. The form is from the Japanese, a prose paragraph (or two) followed by a haiku. In the original form, it was usually a travelog with an apposite haiku at the end. But the form has morphed and this is a wonderful example of where it can go.
To everything, there is a season of parrots. Instead of feathers, we searched the sky for meteors on our last night. Salamanders use the stars to find their way home. Who knew they could see that far, fix the tiny beads of their eyes on distant arrangements of lights so as to return to wet and wild nests? Our heads tilt up and up and we are careful to never look at each other. You were born on a day of peaches splitting from so much rain and the slick smell of fresh tar and asphalt pushed over a cracked parking lot. You were strong enough—even as a baby—to clutch a fistful of thistle and the sun himself was proud to light up your teeth when they first swelled and pushed up from your gums. And this is how I will always remember you when we are covered up again: by the pale mica flecks on your shoulders. Some thrown there from your own smile. Some from my own teeth. There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at ight. I want to spread those little meteors on a hunk of still-warm bread this winter. Any trace left on the knife will make a kitchen sink like that evening air
the cool night before
star showers: so sticky so
warm so full of light
appears in OCEANIC (Copper Canyon 2018)