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The On Being Project

Life Is a Found Poem

Life Is a Found Poem

If you pay attention, the events of an ordinary day can come together as a found poem. That’s what Barbara Crooker has given us here — using her gifts as a poet to connect the dots.

The poem fascinates me partly because of its form. Writing it must have been a bit like piecing together a quilt!

In every other line, starting with the first, there’s a word that morphs into something different in the next line. So the “work shirt washed a thousand times” in line #1 becomes the “journey of a thousand miles” in line #2. And so on… It would be great fun to write a poem that way, so I’m going to try!

But my fascination runs deeper still, as the poem takes me down into the layered reality of life. That blue work shirt launches a meditation that makes many stops on the way down — ending with the constancy and mystery of the moon. As a bonus, there’s a lot of humor along the way!

So thank you, Barbara Crooker, for connecting the dots with a poet’s skill and sensibility. You help us see that, amid the seemingly random events of life, paying attention allows us to create patterns of meaning — making a strange kind of sense out of our experience while honoring its complexity.

Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton
“We Are All Writing God’s Poem”
by Barbara Crooker

Today, the sky’s the soft blue of a work shirt washed
a thousand times. The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step. On the interstate listening
to NPR, I heard a Hubble scientist
say, “The universe is not only stranger than we
think, it’s stranger than we can think.” I think
I’ve driven into spring, as the woods revive
with a loud shout, redbud trees, their gaudy
scarves flung over bark’s bare limbs. Barely doing
sixty, I pass a tractor trailer called Glory Bound,
and aren’t we just? Just yesterday,
I read Li Po: “There is no end of things
in the heart,” but it seems like things
are always ending — vacation or childhood,
relationships, stores going out of business,
like the one that sold jeans that really fit —
And where do we fit in? How can we get up
in the morning, knowing what we do? But we do,
put one foot after the other, open the window,
make coffee, watch the steam curl up
and disappear. At night, the scent of phlox curls
in the open window, while the sky turns red violet,
lavender, thistle, a box of spilled crayons.
The moon spills its milk on the black tabletop
for the thousandth time.

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