July Challenge–Two Responses

This month Heidi posed our group’s challenge. She shared a poem that Tabatha Yeatts had recently shared on her blog: “What Pain Doesn’t Know About Me”, by Gail Martin. It begins like this:

“How I visualize him as a rooster. How I nickname him Sparky.

My rabbit-heart. How it looks motionless in the bank of clover
but secretly continues to nibble.”

It’s a wonderful poem. You can read the rest here.

Heidi proposed that we use Martin’s poem as a mentor in some way, and she also suggested we might try using some anthimera, which thankfully she explained. It’s essentially using a word in a new grammatical shape–a noun as a verb, a verb as a noun, etc.

I’ve really struggled with this prompt. Heidi left it nice and open, but I couldn’t seem to find a way in. At the moment, I’m in Ohio, helping out my stepmother and dad as he begins palliative cancer treatment. I’m so glad to be here, but needless to say, I’m distracted and a lot more.

My first effort was sparked by the idea of anthimera:

Rough Country (working title)

These days we’re cancering
though I hate to verbify the word
since it’s already damn active
and more than aggressive enough
I’d like to recruit some more verbs
like pummel, throttle, pulverize
and group them
into an active verb posse
ride out together
lasso in that tumor
and administer swift, vigilante justice
leaving cancer broken-backed and beaten
then ride off triumphantly
with a nice sunset in the background
or better still, a sunrise
and the promise of another day.

©Molly Hogan

Then I tried to work with Gail Martin’s poem as a mentor. This was tough. I wasn’t quite ready to delve into Fear, Anger, Grief and couldn’t turn it around and find another entry point. I ended up focusing elsewhere. Sort of. Over the past days, I’ve spent a fair amount of time on the back deck of my dad and stepmother’s house. It looks out over a small pond, and the frogs, dragonflies, ducks, geese and occasional heron are a welcome distraction.

What Frogs Don’t Know About Me

How their croaking calls and banjo twangs are a lifeline, pulling me out of the darker pools in my mind.

My nervous eye. How it scans edges and boundaries, constantly searching for anomalies.

I’m benign.

They needn’t fear my touch. I have no intention of invading and prefer the distance of the lens.

My out-of-proportion delight when I do spy them. Two bumps recast as two watchful eyes. The possibility of transformation.

My understanding–I get their “on-alert” stance. How they are ever ready to jump and splash away at the slightest disturbance. Real or imagined.

We are united in a perpetual state of vigilance.

Even now I hear their long low croaks and can’t help but smile in response.

We inhabit this place together.

©Molly Hogan, draft

If you’d like to see what the other Swaggers did in response to this prompt, check out their posts:

Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Laura Shovan at her blog. Make sure to stop by and enjoy some poetry.

33 thoughts on “July Challenge–Two Responses

  1. margaretsmn says:

    I love the way you attack a poetry challenge. That cancering poem is laid out so that we experience your anger and frustration and want that sunset ending as much as you do. The frogs are a happy distraction even as they echo your first poem “We are united in a perpetual state of vigilance.” Thoughts and prayers for your dad and your family as you step into this difficult time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] Hogan at Nix the Comfort ZoneLinda Mitchell at A Word EdgewiseHeidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little UniverseMargaret Simon at […]


  3. gailaldousmsncom says:

    Molly, I will pray for your family and you. Both of your poems are therapeutic and are amazing. Your powerful voice in the first poem brought your emotions to me and I was happy to feel relief and hope at the end. Your second poem has a powerful voice, also. The comparisons you make and images are effective at bringing your emotions forth. Towards the end I felt it might be like a prayer for you. I love how you bring in the sense of hearing in “long low croaks” and I also love how your love of nature gives you a “smile in response.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mitchell Linda says:

    Oh, my goodness, Molly. That word, “cancering.” We all know it and the definition of it. No need for Merriam Webster on this one. I love the idea of an old fashioned posse taking it DOWN. But, then you have this really sweet poem and photos of the pond to bring us down back to earth…on the deck with you. Your beautiful, gentle, loving self shines through your post. Love to you and yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] Doesn’t Know about Me” makes a great mentor text for writing about nearly anything. Molly used the prompt to cleverly write about […]


  6. Gol-darn, Molly. All this adversity is bringing you some poetry goods, and how that posse of pummel, throttle, and pulverize deliver some poetic justice to cancering–love it. And then you have a whole ‘nother frog conversation in you! THIS juxtaposition:
    “My nervous eye. How it scans edges and boundaries, constantly searching for anomalies.
    I’m benign.”
    Sending y’all banjo twangs at sunrise…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Still in Ohio? How are you doing today with all that’s stirring around you? If in Buckeye Land, the heat has broken. It’s a glorious 52F this morning of rain on the coast of Maine.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow. Both of these poems are wonderful, Molly, but in different ways. As others have mentioned, that “active verb posse” is a great image. Oh, that we could assemble such a gang! I also love your reassurance to the frogs: “I’m benign.” I tell birds this all the time, but they don’t listen. Hugs to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Catherine. I’m always trying to find a balance between getting close enough to the birds to enjoy them and not too close to disturb them. They don’t tend to believe my assurances either.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. lindabaie says:

    Oh, Molly, I am sad for you & your family, not at all an easy time. You’ve shown the feelings so poignantly in that what I think is a “yell” of a poem, the “cancering” diatribe. The frog poem is what I feel I know about you, with all the sightings & pics you share from your nature love. I’m glad you have that tiny respite. Best of wishes to you & all the family for good and loving care.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Denise Krebs says:

    Molly, you have been fulltime with cancering and helping your father with his care, and you have taken some time to create art with the beautiful photos of frogs and your two poems. May you and your family be at peace during this difficult time.

    I like how your frog poem seems to be attempting to tell the frogs what they don’t know about you–you’re benign, you are united with them, and “inhabit this place together.” Lovely. Keep enjoying your time with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. janicescully says:

    The fight against cancer is a tough one and I wish your family the best. Just yesterday I passes a pond full of frogs with full throated twangs like banjoes. It might have been reassuring for them to know that I am benign.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Laura Shovan says:

    “Cancering,” “active verb posse,” the rethinking of words gives your poem a powerful attitude. Sending a hug to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Lakshmi Bhat says:

    I pray for your father’s good health. Thank you so much for introducing me to a new form of poetry. I liked what you have written.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. maryleehahn says:

    Wow. Each of these is powerful, but as a pair…wow.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Elisabeth says:

    Oh my goodness – each of these poems is beautiful.

    We visit a pond with frogs several days a week on our walks. I had never been much of a frog watcher until this year, but I now find myself delighted and fascinated by them. Your poem made me think of the stretches of time when we’ve stood at the edge of the pond, watching “our” frogs.

    Thank you for sharing these poems. I wish you and your loved ones the grace and fortitude for the times you are walking through right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. cvarsalona says:

    Molly, I can see how your mind is full of contrasting thoughts these days. Cancering is a word for bringing out deep emotions of angst, probabilities, and a sunrise
    and the promise of another day.
    This was a poem fitting for a family discussion. Your follow-up poem provided room to play, to settle your floating thoughts into a purpose for a visit: We are united in a perpetual state of vigilance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Carol. I just stumbled upon your response–over a year later! Realizing I never responded then (though I know I read and appreciated your comments at the time) reminds me how much changed, and how quickly, and how much upheaval there was at that time.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. These are two wonderful poems Molly. Your first one about your dad and cancer really hit home, as I lost my dad to cancer in 2016. I love all your verbs in there, and would have loved your sensitive closing,
    “leaving cancer broken-backed and beaten
    then ride off triumphantly
    with a nice sunset in the background.”
    And what fun your frog poem and images are. Sending hugs your way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Michelle, I remember reading your words a year ago and intending to respond…crazy times though. I’m sorry for your loss and I wish we both had been able to ride off happily and triumphantly. Thanks for the words and virtual hugs–they were (and are) much appreciated!


  18. […] Molly Hogan at her blog Nix the Comfort Zone is our host for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup, thanks Molly! Molly’s post is all about Summertime, gardens and how summer can slip away, be sure to drop in. […]


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