Another Sunday, Another Wordle

30 Sep

Where would we be without Brenda and The Whirl!? If you haven’t been by, make it part of your day and visit The Sunday Whirl.

A Culturally Sponsored Sacrifice

They tell her she should feel pride: her son
is a martyr for the state. All she feels
is ambivalence. She concentrates on breathing;
her soul empties of everything but
the terrible tenderness a mother feels.

They tell her God is pleased with her son;
he died gloriously. Her mind flaps and scurries —
what use are prayers, now — surely a God who is pleased
at the death of a son will sense her fear, as
faith evaporates like incense.

They tell her she is blessed. Her son
has done a holy thing. She feels as if
she is hearing them from under water. She
stands, dazed, wishing not to celebrate the death
of a Jihadi, only to grieve a mother’s loss.

The process was one of those coming togethers which I love about writing poetry. Friday night, I copied Brenda’s words, sorting them into columns, to begin the thinking. Saturday morning I read the lead-in to Chris Goan’s blog, This Fragile Tent, and jotted notes. I wanted to do a found poem based only on the lead-in. Then, I glanced at the wordle words and jotted notes there. I came back later, looked at the words, reread the lead-in and bob’s your uncle.

I would like to play with this and you all are particularly good at giving me ideas. I would love it, if you have time, if you will make suggestions, critique, tell me what springs to mind… anything.


Posted by on 30/09/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , ,

56 responses to “Another Sunday, Another Wordle

  1. JulesPaige

    30/09/2012 at 9:29 am

    The news is hard to watch and listen to, especially when death is involved. With the elections so close at hand and the media spinning, my head revolves like one possessed. There are so many questions – the first and foremost is why can’t we live in peace?

    You have done justice to the view of a mother’s loss. Every mother’s loss of her child that soldiered on…

    I too wrote of the conflict while continuing with my fantasy…

  2. Laurie Kolp

    30/09/2012 at 10:36 am

    Margo- This is such a gripping and very real emotive piece… a mother’s loss like that… so very sad. I pray for peace.

  3. brenda w

    30/09/2012 at 10:37 am

    Margo, I love this piece, it evokes one of my favorite Melissa Etheridge songs. Maybe giving it a listen will inspire or give you direction. Thank you, your writing is strong. Please let me know when/if you rework it. .

    • brenda w

      30/09/2012 at 10:38 am

      Sorry about posting a video here. I thought it would just post a link…never done this before. If you want to delete it, please feel free.

      • margo roby

        30/09/2012 at 12:19 pm

        Not a problem, Brenda. I appreciate the video as a source. Thank you!

  4. Daydreamertoo

    30/09/2012 at 10:50 am

    There is nothing glorious in these deaths at all. I’m sure no God I believe in asks for our lives in this way. He created it, and it wasn’t just to ask us to kill everyone who doesn’t believe the same way they do.
    Powerful, touching, Margo. I don’t know how a mother would cope on hearing this news. I suppose they are told they have so many days and then have to suppress it because it was glorious. I wonder if mankind will ever learn. *Sighs.

  5. vivinfrance

    30/09/2012 at 11:36 am

    Margo, I have replied to you separately: why would you want to play with a perfect poem? Touching and oh, so sad.

    • margo roby

      30/09/2012 at 12:21 pm

      Thank you, ViV. I felt the sadness as soon as I read Chris’s intro. I knew I had to write it.

  6. barbara_

    30/09/2012 at 11:46 am

    Wonderfully strong; and supple in the language. I don’t know how it might be improved. Made different? Perhaps refraining from direct mention of Jihad would allow a less limited reading. Religion and nationalism, religion as nationalism, and nationalism as-if religion. There were probably Spartan mothers with the same lament. But, that’s one of my hobbyhorses & not your poem.

    • margo roby

      30/09/2012 at 12:23 pm

      Interesting, Barbara. I’ll have to think about that, whether I want the more general [given all sides consider what they are doing is glorious]. Thank you for the possibility.

  7. De Jackson

    30/09/2012 at 12:05 pm

    I already loved this, Margo, but your process notes added much, as well. Just perfect.

    • margo roby

      30/09/2012 at 12:16 pm

      Ahh! Thank you, de. That means a lot.

  8. anl4

    30/09/2012 at 12:40 pm

    Margo It’s a wonderful piece…the young prince is dead, as each son is a prince in his Mother’s eyes, somehow I don’t think a Mother things of her son as canon fodder? I love your process notes. Thanks so much!

    • anl4

      30/09/2012 at 12:41 pm

      I’m sorry I made a typo! I meant “thinks” not “things.”

      • margo roby

        30/09/2012 at 2:28 pm

        Funny. I think because of the first ‘think’ and my brain knowing the word you meant to use, I didn’t even see the typo, annell.

    • margo roby

      30/09/2012 at 2:29 pm

      Thank you, annell. That is what is so sad, isn’t it.

  9. Mary

    30/09/2012 at 1:20 pm

    Margo, this is indeed a powerful write. I cannot imagine any mother would really celebrate the loss of a son to ‘jihad.’ I am sure each mother would feel she did not raise her son for that. Makes me sad for all the mothers of these young men or women AND those that they kill (and their mothers too).

    • margo roby

      30/09/2012 at 2:30 pm

      Exactly, Mary. A mother is always a mother first.

  10. Mr. Walker

    30/09/2012 at 1:35 pm

    Margo, I love the title – ouch! And those first lines of the stanzas, just wonderful. That repetition of “her son” caught my attention first, and then I realized the variations in those lines. Keep that, for sure. I like “flaps and scurries” – they belong together, but I’m wondering if they could be expanded upon, more imagery there – or do you just want what they allude to? It’s a fine poem of an extremely sad event. Thank you.


    • margo roby

      30/09/2012 at 2:34 pm

      Thank you, Richard. I’ll play with ‘flaps and scurries,’ sit and freewrite from that moment and see where it takes me. I love when what you say sends me scurrying back up to the poem to see what the possibilities might be.

  11. 1sojournal

    30/09/2012 at 1:43 pm

    I agree with Barbara. Will even go further. The word Jihadi points a finger, and may even make a judgment, placing blame. Any nation that sacrifices its young to gain power has already been swallowed up in the insatiable hunger that is darkness. I believe there is a light in Mellissa’s words: “My God loves you, my God loves me.” I think your poem is brilliant and powerful, otherwise.


    • margo roby

      30/09/2012 at 2:36 pm

      Point well made, Elizabeth. The original news piece refers specifically to an event, but I don’t have to. [In fact, shouldn’t, to make my point universal.]


  12. flipside records

    30/09/2012 at 2:45 pm

    Oh, that ending is heartbreaking and powerful.

    I love this: “as faith evaporates like incense”

    • margo roby

      30/09/2012 at 9:40 pm

      Thank you. I hoped for that reaction.

  13. Chris Goan

    30/09/2012 at 2:47 pm

    Lovely poem Margo!

    One thing I thought as I wrote my poem (and as I read yours) was that this poem could apply equally to the soldiers who die from both ‘our’ armies and those from Afghanistan/Iraq etc. We too culturally sponsor the deaths of ‘our boys’. Their deaths are elevated as somehow representative of our country, our culture. I think your poem works better with this theme as it is more ambigious than mine- I included too much language that was deliberately middle-eastern, more because I was trying to roughly fit in with the Ghazal format.

    Anyway- thanks for the poem…


    • margo roby

      30/09/2012 at 9:42 pm

      Thank you, Chris.

      Ghazals are tough. I have managed to wrestle one into being.

      I appreciate your words. Listening to everyone’s comments, I am going to revise to make the theme more universal.


  14. Sabra Bowers

    30/09/2012 at 2:53 pm

    If we were in a critique group, I would have this to say: Margo, I question a phrase in the piece…martyr for the state. Do Jihadist martyr for the state? I like the title and that title allows you to expand beyond Jihad, if you wanted. Starting each stanza with they keeps me from delving into her feelings because you keep bringing me back to they. I wonder if you could tell us the “they” information, but have it come from her? It is a great piece…obviously…or I wouldn’t have thought about it this much. Hope you really did want feedback. 🙂 I’m going to read again for the prompts that inspired you. Well done, Margo.

    • margo roby

      30/09/2012 at 9:49 pm

      Sabra, this is exactly the kind of thing I am looking for. Feel free anytime you read a poem I post to critique. The only feedback I get is from a couple of people when I ask. The suggestions and ideas always help me with the revisions. The question about ‘they’ is a good one. I may make her passive and try something like ‘She is told that she …’. I’ll think about how much she might reveal herself. I think I am going to broaden the theme to apply universally, although I like the side message that the mothers of extremists are still mothers.

      Thank you for this. I love feedback 🙂

      • Sabra Bowers

        01/10/2012 at 8:51 pm

        You are welcome. After I posted I got a little concerned that you may not appreciate what I did. I’m so relieved to know you did appreciate my response. I like the side message too. Just an idea or two to play with …could “they” become a particular person or he? Maybe you could name he, she, and the son . Or she could become I. That would be powerful. He tells and I feel and give the son a name. Changing pronouns can be a great process for looking deeper at a poem. Wishing you interesting insights for your powerful poem.

        • margo roby

          02/10/2012 at 8:13 am

          Sabra, I have no ego where my poems are concerned, only a curiosity as to how they can be revised. It’s funny what you say about pronouns. I almost always write in first person, so thought I’d change it up this time, but I should have tried the feel of the first person and now I will.
          ‘He tells and I feel and give the son a name.’ I look forward to playing. Thank you and, really, anytime :-).

  15. Misky

    30/09/2012 at 3:33 pm

    I wouldn’t change a thing.

  16. Marianne

    30/09/2012 at 4:32 pm

    Powerful and beautiful poem, Margo! I loved: “faith evaporates like incense” and “hearing them from under water.” Incredibly descriptive.

    • margo roby

      30/09/2012 at 9:50 pm

      That is one thing about the wordles, Marianne, I use words in ways I might not have thought of otherwise!

  17. PJF Sayers

    30/09/2012 at 6:14 pm

    I am with Marianne, this is powerful and beautiful, Margo. As for improvements, I can see any at all.


    • margo roby

      30/09/2012 at 9:51 pm

      Thank you, Pamela. I’ll be over tomorrow morning to reread yours. I gave it a quick read in my inbox.


  18. pmwanken

    30/09/2012 at 10:46 pm

    Heartrendingly sad…yet gorgeous. Funny how it can be both. I’ve often wondered how a mother mourns for her martyr son.

    • margo roby

      01/10/2012 at 10:10 am

      Paula, I would thing she would be twice torn.

  19. Veronica Roth

    01/10/2012 at 1:01 am

    Very well done Margo. That’s a really powerful and emotional poem. As the mother of a son it made me weepy reading it. 🙂

    • margo roby

      01/10/2012 at 10:11 am

      Thank you, Veronica. I’m always curious about the effects of anything I write.

  20. seingraham

    01/10/2012 at 1:53 am

    Such a strong evocative poem Margo – it brought tears to my eyes … I’ve written a lot of war/peace poetry (would like to do a chapbook eventually, even a full collection possibly) and have gone back and revised some to make them universal – the only one I can think of where I couldn’t, speaks of a North American mother envying a middle eastern mother’s ability to “make that sound” (to ululate) – either celebrating or more importantly,when grieving…I can well imagine wanting to wail like that in the situation described in your poem. Hell, I wish I could wail like that in many situations. Now I’m off to read Chris Goan’s work – intrigued.

    • margo roby

      01/10/2012 at 10:14 am

      I have followed Chris a long time because I like his life philosophy. He and his family sound like they have figured out a pretty good path through life.
      Thank you for the comments on the poem. I’m going back and forth, now, on whether to keep this specific with the message that all mothers feel this even mothers of extremists, or go universal, which might dilute it somewhat.
      It would be good to give forth to a good wail, wouldn’t it?!

  21. Nancy

    01/10/2012 at 9:17 am

    Margo ~ Wow … Your poem is poignant and reaches deeply into the heart and soul of a mother. Don’t change a thing. ~ Nancy

    • margo roby

      01/10/2012 at 10:09 am

      Thank you, dear sister-in-law!

  22. markwindham

    01/10/2012 at 5:20 pm

    its a goodun…shall ponder…1st thought is that all the lines are there, but maybe not in their final location…

    hmm…I am thinking…perhaps…of changing my blog name…to ‘ellipses’

    • margo roby

      02/10/2012 at 8:09 am

      Mark, I would appreciate a ponder. I look forward to it. I like this one more and more. I am intrigued by the thought that the lines might need reshuffling.
      Ellipses are such damn fun. I like dashes, too!

  23. Andra Negroiu

    01/10/2012 at 7:50 pm

    This is such an emotional portrayal of a mother’s feelings – there is no escaping the loneliness and grief left behind after the death of a loved one, regardless of whether that person was a martyr. Encouraging young men to commit suicide in the name of a religion or a country is such an absurd pursuit. I pray for peace everywhere.

    • margo roby

      02/10/2012 at 8:06 am

      Andra, I appreciate your heartfelt response. Thank you.

  24. barbara_

    02/10/2012 at 9:10 am

    Thinking on specific/universal: Sometimes the specific is just that–one place, situation, etc–an “occasional poem”? — and sometimes it is such a self-contained world that it forces a reader to think “yes, this applies to me, too”. I think that your poem is not either of those. The poem is maternal loss. Jihad is its…location. It would be wrong to strip that away, but such an emotionally charged concept wants to take over unless it’s kept away from the focus. Does that make any sense?

    • margo roby

      02/10/2012 at 9:15 am

      Yep, Barbara. I really appreciate your putting that particular thought into words. By last night, I had circled completely from taking the poem universal back to, no, I want this to be every mother, even this one, in this case, feels the loss. For that, it must stay specific.

      I do love these mini-workshops. They help me tremendously.

  25. tmhHoover

    03/10/2012 at 8:57 am

    Just last week, I stood behind a woman carrying an folded American flag and a small box through securtiy at the airport. Her hands quaked as they asked her to lay down these things, on the conveyor belt – so they could be x-rayed.. Through to the other side, she picked up her loved one. I laid my hand on her shoulder, as she cried to herself. No one can tell me this is how it is supposed to be.

    You write to an incredibly sad subject, and you do it well. xo teri

    • margo roby

      04/10/2012 at 8:03 am

      Teri, I would have been a puddle of tears, as I watched. Thank you for sharing this scene with me.


      • tmhHoover

        11/10/2012 at 2:53 pm

        A puddle- yes that is what happened. xo teri


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