Rivers and Bridges

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“The air smelled like Bayou Teche when it’s spring and the fish are spawning among the water hyacinths and the frogs are throbbing in the cattails and the flooded cypress.”
James Lee Burke, Creole Belle

Margaret Simon and I were e-mailing a month or so ago, and Margaret, typically, had a brainstorm. Why don’t we exchange photos and write poems in response to them? I was immediately on board with this idea. Then, she called it “More Than Meets the Eye” and opted to open it up to a wider audience and have participants share when she posted the Poetry Friday Roundup on May 25th. The game was on!

Margaret organized it all and matched up participants from different geographic areas. She sent me two photos of her beloved Bayou Teche, and then, after agonizing over which pictures to send, I finally sent my photos to her as well. (I can’t wait to read her poetic response!)

Duperier bridge sunset.jpg

Photo of the Bayou Teche by Margaret Simon

Duperier Bridge in fall.jpg

Photo of the Bayou Teche and the Duperier Street Bridge by Margaret Simon

True confession: The photos are beautiful, but I have struggled with my response. I’ve been all over the place. My first thoughts involved bridges and the nature of bridges. I was intrigued by the idea that the convenience of bridges comes with a cost–a loss of intimacy with the river.

I initially thought I’d try a rondel (roundel?) but wow..that is hard! This is as close as I got and I keep playing around with it. The challenge of the form appeals to and frustrates me.

Hidden Tolls

Each bridge we traverse has a toll
for spanning river’s flowing course
for circumventing nature’s force
for flying o’er shadow and shoal

Intent and focused on our goal
we sow the first seeds of remorse
Each bridge we traverse has a toll
for spanning river’s flowing course

We see one path but not the whole
as we forget about our source
and from our roots ourselves divorce
We lose touch with the river’s soul
Each bridge we traverse has a toll

©2018 M. Hogan

Next I tried a nonet, but that one just fizzled…

I shifted my focus and thought about rivers, and again, I was struck by an inherent duality–their potential as blessing and curse. Fertility and flooding. I also thought of the role that rivers have played in history and how they symbolize the inexorable flow of time. I learned that the name Teche is thought to have come from the Chitimacha Indian’s word for snake, a reference to its twisting, turning course. I played around with that metaphor poem for a while, but didn’t gain any traction. I tried a mask poem as well “I bore witness to gunboat duels and hardscrabble poverty…”

Then, Margaret wrote a comment in response to my Poetry Friday post last week. I’d shared two poems focused on adjusting to the empty nest at home. Margaret wrote, “Life’s changes can make us sad and lonely.” That line reminded me of my thoughts of the river, how it’s so much more peripheral to our lives than it once was (echoes of empty nest here), and I thought perhaps I could use that line to compose a golden shovel.

Forgotten Like a River Under a Bridge

Once central to the pulse and flow of life’s
daily activity, now its changes
are peripheral, casually observed, if at all. A bridge can
span its flow in seconds, avoiding twists, turns and tumult, and make
a straight, safe shot. Convenient, but divorcing us
from communion with the inexorable flow. The sad
truth is that much is lost when we don’t meander and
remember. I wonder…can a river feel lonely?

©2018 M. Hogan

“Life’s changes can make us sad and lonely.” Margaret Simon

Thanks, Margaret, for creating a wonderful challenge, and for the inspiration for a golden shovel. I’ve so enjoyed this journey! Thanks also for hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup this week. To see what photos I sent to Margaret and how she responded, or to check out a plethora of photo poetry and more, go visit Reflections on the Teche.

 

30 thoughts on “Rivers and Bridges

  1. cvarsalona says:

    Molly isn’t it amazing how a picture prompt can produce a flood of ideas, some of which settle and flourish and others “fizzle” in time. Your poems are beautifully rendered as inspirational pieces. The interconnectedness of the rhyme with the content and intent is evident in your first poem while the second one does echo your former thoughts on the empty nest syndrome. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Carol! This was such a wonderful challenge, wasn’t it? I really have enjoyed reading everyone’s responses. I found the process both invigorating and hair-pulling–sometimes at the same time!

      Like

  2. margaretsmn says:

    There is something so humbling about someone using your very words in a golden shovel, elevating them somehow to something more. I love how beautifully you have expressed the separation of people from the river that at one time was essential for life, transportation, and food. When we canoed last weekend in a parade, people set up picnics out on their lawns to watch us pass. That disconnect was palpable. I love reconnecting to these roots of existence. You certainly challenged yourself with a roundel and a golden shovel. One sonnet was enough for me! This was a great idea we shared. I look forward to reading more exchange posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love how Margaret inspired you, not only visually, but with (unrelated) words as well. I also admire your meandering perseverance to find just the right form and approach. You should be proud of what you accomplished, Molly! And BTW, I LOVE your window poem too. (I hope your cat’s okay.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lindabaie says:

    How wonderful that you took the challenge and expressed those strong and poignant feelings so beautifully, Molly. The pictures are gorgeous, but I am intrigued also by your thoughts connecting to a bridge and then the river it crosses. I love that you wrote a golden shovel with Margaret’s line, but that first poem, the rondel touched me a lot. That key is “as we forget about our source” to me. Wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Linda. It was a wonderful challenge to participate in and quite a process for me. I’m glad that I had several weeks for thoughts to percolate and brew.

      Like

  5. Alice Nine says:

    How wonderful that your poem came from Margaret’s photo and her words, neither of which was connected to the other at the moment of their beginning. The quote you share at the beginning of this post is so perfect! And thanks for sharing your process and your not-quite-right (although I think it is grand) roundel. Thank you, Molly, for your part in making this exchange happen. I am enjoying being a part of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the beauty, strength, and questioning in your golden shovel poem Molly. And your analogy of a river meandering and the desire for lives to interchange and meander. Rich poem, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. haitiruth says:

    Wonderful post! I loved reading your ideas, and your golden shovel poem resonates with me. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Linda Mitchell says:

    Molly, I so enjoyed both poems and your process thoughts. I found myself in a similar boat. I was intimidated at the thought of writing a “good enough” poem to honor another person’s photograph and get a meaningful message across as well. Like you, I turned to form for help. I love both of your poems. The idea of a toll or a cost…it becomes more dear over time to me. And, I also face an emptying nest so that the question, “can a river feel lonely?” really gets to me as a mom with a house full of teenagers. Well done, you. I hope we can do this exchange again sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      It was intimidating, wasn’t it? I’m so glad there was sufficient time to play around with ideas — the responses today have been wonderful! I so enjoyed your skinny poem trio!!

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  9. Irene Latham says:

    Wow, I love how you met these challenges, Molly! None of these forms are easy ones to tackle, and yet you did, you did! And beautifully. I, too, enjoy wondering about the river’s feelings. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Irene. I find that working within forms is an interesting process–sort of simultaneously restrictive and empowering. I often think of water flowing through a hose that’s been partially blocked to make the spray more forceful. Working within form can feel like that to me.

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  10. Those are both wonderful. I like your nonet, and it’s wondering.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Kay Mcgriff says:

    I like both of these poems. The rondel has such a gentle rhythm to it–like the river on its peaceful days. The Golden Shovel explores your idea powerfully. So much progress has that double edge to it–benefits and also loss. How can we hang on to both?

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      I think I’m at a time in my life where I notice the duality of so many things. Perhaps it’s this mid-life, empty nest time. It’s not always comfortable, but it’s ripe for reflection!

      Like

  12. Molly, both of these poems are stunning! I love that your focus on the cost of forgetting “our source” and the toll of much of society’s indifference to nature was inspired by Margaret’s photos of the bayou, yet applies to every part of our precious world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      I’m so thankful to live somewhere that I can appreciate nature on a daily basis. It so enriches my life, but still I can lose sight of it with the daily rush-rush-rush. I frequently need to remind myself to pull off the main road, play on the river’s bank, take the long route, and simply wander and wonder.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow! What a two-fer, Molly. I absolutely love your playing around with “toll.” So powerful. “Much is lost when we don’t meander,” is also an important lesson for all of us. Brilliant, Molly. I really loved participating in this exchange and can’t wait to read more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks! I’ve also loved participating in this exchange and am full of admiration for all the wonderful poetry I’ve been reading today. Wow! Margaret’s idea has inspired some beautiful, powerful poetry!

      Like

  14. Molly, you started it all off, in a way, with the photos you shared. I’m noticing that when we’re writing from a photo, the image seems to carry some of the weight, freeing us up to move away from the image itself and get at the bigger concepts it reminds us of. “avoiding twists, turns and tumult, and make
    a straight, safe shot”–perhaps this is the source of our human downfall, seeking efficiency when we can only learn from the slow experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Such interesting thoughts, Heidi. I can see what you mean about the image carrying “some of the weight” and allowing us to move more into the realm of ideas. I’d never thought of it that way, but it makes such sense!

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  15. I am in awe of all these amazing photos and photo-inspired poems… yours are wonderful, Molly! Thanks for sharing the bits of backstory/process, too. “Toll” is a great loaded word/image, and even reminded me of “troll,” too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      This challenge has been so rewarding to read about and to participate in. Now you have me thinking that it might be fun to play around with a bridge/troll poem! “Who’s that trip-trappin’ over my bridge?” lol

      Like

  16. maryleehahn says:

    You really went deep with your poems. You found big truths about bridges and tolls, about wandering and goals.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Joyce Ray says:

    I love the theme expressed in your golden shovel and this line: “The sad truth is that much is lost when we don’t meander and remember.” Thanks for reminding us to slow down! I also like the right justification that lets us see the working line so clearly and imitates the meandering river on the left side.

    Like

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