Possessions

In response to Big Tent Poetry prompt Aug. 9:  possessions
http://bigtentpoetry.org

When I first saw the prompt and the challenge of exploring the whole issue of possessions and their affect and effect on and to me, as an individual, I immediately thought of a poem I wrote many years ago and that remains a particular favorite. And how the object discussed has changed, in my inner senses over those years. Eventually, I began to also consider all of the new possessions I have acquired in the past months as we dismantled my Mother’s apartment.

After writing about both things, I couldn’t make up my mind which one to post, so you get both. And although the two are different in their approach to the issue of possessions, they both seem to end up in the same realm, but on distinctly different notes.

More A Matter of Who, Than What

To possess a thing, one must own it,
accept it into both inner and outer
existence. So, some of these things
will never truly be mine, even though
they take pride of place here, inside
my space, they will always be hers.

Chimney lamp, ornate with brass-like
fixtures, white bowled bottom and upper flute
holding muted red and yellow roses
in etched design. That one became mine
when I placed it on bedside table,
yet, small china hutch will always be
hers, even though what fills its shelves
truly rests in my possession.

Even words of personal ownership
stumble on my lips as I fumble,
trying to come to grips with newly
enriched environment. Three months
have passed, yet many days I find
myself startled anew by need to define
what is hers, and will always be hers,
and how that has changed, permanently
altered what has always been mine.

Can more fully comprehend now,
why so many believe in ghosts. Things,
mere objects, can be haunted by lingering
energy of that one who used to own them.
Feelings felt, even words expressed long ago,
seem to make a nest within more solid
ingredients, possess memory perhaps
of that other who has gone to rest,
forever freed of all possessions.

Elizabeth Crawford  8/13/10

This second piece is actually two separate poems. The first was the title poem for my first small volume of poetry, a brief overview of the grief process. It was written in 1998 and the book was published in 1999. The second poem, added this past week, is simply titled Addendum (2010).

Splitting Darkness  (1998)

Wear a small silver ring
on little finger
of my right hand.
Face of an owl
fierce eyes staring.
Friend of night,
splitting darkness
on silent wings,
seeking what lives
only in shadows.

Rides my pen
watching words spill
from its tip, filling
pages with blue/black
ink. Bloodletting,
getting to the heart
of things.

Addendum  (2010)

Still wear it, that little silver ring,
means far too much, so many different
things. Youngest daughter twelve, eyes
bright with childish delight, unwilling
to wait for Christmas Day, still too far
away. Rushing toward me, through tiny
dark shop, where aisles were so cluttered,
we had to slide sideways to get from one
to another. Watched her run to show me,
fist clenched tight, waving as she trilled,
“Look Mom. Look what I found! You must
put it on, wear it right now, it is so you.”
And she was so right.

She just passed her thirty-first
year, now carries fear for three
daughters of her own, another
adopted through marriage. And still
manages to mother every soul
around her. Comes singing, brings
songs now, instead of delicate silver
rings, fierce eyes of owl staring.

Have never removed that ring
from little finger, except once
at insistence of technician before
an MRI. Felt exposed, naked
from the loosing, more so than thin
hospital gown could render.

Need her now, more than ever. Her
ability to split darkness in silent flight,
that I will need, when I confront
threshold of eternal night. She, that tiny
owl, is my truest and best companion.
Laugh, when I think what might happen,
if centuries from now, some student
of archeology should find what might be
left of my remains. Sees pen still clutched
between bony digits, hears clink
of silver ring, and reaches to possess it.

I promise, even swear, I shall rise
up, clacking hinged jaw will drop
open, and will snarl,
after all that time,

“Don’t you dare.
The ring,
is mine.”

Elizabeth Crawford  8/13/10

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About 1sojournal

Loves words and language. Dances on paper to her own inner music. Loves to share and keeps several blogs to facilitate that. They can be found here: http://1sojournal.wordpress.com/ https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/ http://claudetteellinger.wordpress.com/
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31 Responses to Possessions

  1. brenda w says:

    Elizabeth, You stun me with your humility, grace, and the beauty of your words. The piece about your ring had me aching with motherly love. The first piece, about your mother, is foreshadowing for me. Hopefully there will be several years yet, but how do we know?

    It’s interesting that you started with your mother, and ended with your daughter. Beautiful pieces. Thank you for sharing so much of your self.
    ~Brenda

    Hi Brenda, I let my daughter know that I was posting a poem that she played a prominent part in. Hope she comes and takes a look. And that initial reaction, her eagerness and astute sense of me as an individual, is probably why the ring has such a strong sense of possession for me. It is part and parcel of my sense of self.

    And starting with my Mother was easy. Thoughts of her are a daily occurence and will probably be for a long time to come. But, I felt that that piece was a bit more formal than the other, so it went first.

    The first poem in the second piece has always been a favorite of mine. I am deep into animal mythology and symbolism and the owl has long been a favorite of mine. The hawk as well, because it inhabits the same space as the owl, but during daylight hours, and they both feed on the same diet in many environments. I’ve had many encounters with both and received many gifts in return.

    Thank you for the wonderful comments and compliments,

    Elizabeth

    Like

  2. Stan Ski says:

    When it comes to inherited possessions, we’re never really owners, merely gaurdians… you’re right to take such fierce pride in that duty.

    Hi Stan, actually, after beginning the poem, my younger sister called and I told her what I was writing about. We talked for quite a while and agreed that we are both having the same mix of feelings about our Mother’s things. She also feels that many of those things will never truly be hers, while others simply belonged as soon as they came through the door.

    My Mother was a painter, and did landscapes and still-life’s in oil. She didn’t start painting until she was sixty, but certainly made up for lost time. The hardest part of sorting out her things was deciding how to ‘divvey’ up the paintings. We went with a number system, numbers on papers that corresponded with numbers on the paintings. Then we each took our turns matching the numbers with the paintings. We each went home with enough paintings to give to our offspring which made everyone happy. And you are right, we are only the guardians of those things, but also proud to be so.

    Elizabeth

    Like

  3. vivinfrance says:

    Elizabeth, truth shines out of both of these poems. I have to tell you that inherited possessions stay that way for ever: the oak corner cupboard in my dining room remains “Mum’s corner cupboard” though she left us nearly thirty years ago; other ‘possessions’ are similarly labelled – a different kind of immortality?

    Your second poem is just lovely – your daughter must be very proud of you.

    Viv, I’m sure you are absolutely correct, and I’ve just begun to understand that reality. It just seems that some of the things, I have no problem using, while others will probably remain on shelves and out of reach of childish fingers. And it has nothing to do with fragility or value of said object to anyone but me. Does that make sense?

    I can hope that my daughter is proud of me, but on that one I really indentify with Lucille Clifton. She once wrote a poem in which she said that sometimes her children told people that their mother was a bit strange cause she spent time writing ‘poems’. I did however, once write a poem about some of my ambiguity concerning my role as a mother. My children loved it, which surprised me. If they were present, when I read publicly, they would always request that I read it and then laugh and clap, as though they’d never heard it before. So?

    Thanks for the comments,

    Elizabeth

    Like

  4. tillybud says:

    Two deeply felt and honest poems. http://thelaughinghousewife.wordpress.com

    Like

  5. 1sojournal says:

    Thank you, tillybud. Poetry, the writing and reading of it, really taught me a great deal about both emotional depth and honesty. I find that the truer I stay to my own person, the more apt people are to hear and understand what I am saying. When I am vague or uncertain, the lack of clarity is visible and apparent. And, I believe, that remains true across the board in any communication or conversation.

    Elizabeth

    Like

  6. I don’t have words…

    In our poetry our honesty comes through and our emotions pour forth. You have donr exactly that..

    half-way through

    And I don’t think there’s a much higher compliment to a poet than to ‘steal’ the ability of words from another, lol. Thank you very much. And yes, what you say is true, it is here that we become most real.

    Elizabeth

    Like

  7. derrick2 says:

    These are wonderful, touching and humorous, Elizabeth! I love how you weave such subtle rhyming through them. I think it’s inevitable that inherited possessions will always belong to another. The ending to your Addendum 2010 is fabulous!

    Oh, Derrick, secret? I hated counting meters and my end rhyme always ended up sounding like Emily Dickenson, something one can sing to the tune of The Yellow Rose of Texas, so internal rhyme and an ear for music was inevitable. And the ending of the Addendum piece was highly visible and had me laughing out loud all the way to getting there. Thanks for stopping and commenting.

    Elizabeth

    Like

  8. Mary says:

    Elizabeth, these poems both are wonderful, need time to savor, to read and reread. I hadn’t thought for a while about the things in the house that come from my parents. You caused me to think about them again. I do agree with Viv that some things will always be mother’s this or mother’s that. They never quite make the leap. And yes, it would be nice to think that there are ghosts that stay with these things, that parents are in some way all around in their possessions now mine.

    The poem about the ring was so very touching. I do hope that your daughter comes to read this poem. Such warm and caring feelings you have shared here.

    Like

  9. 1sojournal says:

    Mary, thank you for the rich and wonderful comments and support. Ahhh, savor, I really like that. I think I didn’t realize that quite so fully until I actually found myself writing the thing about ghosts and I also like that thought, that my parents are still here with me, in all of the things that surround me, perhaps whispering their support and encouragement.

    I’m am hoping that Alyssa will come and read as well. She needs to know the richness she brings to my existence.

    Elizabeth

    Like

  10. twitches says:

    Material possessions are often more than just “things.” Your poem reminds me of that.

    And your comment reminds me of that other question about possessions vs being possessed. Not by the ‘things’ per se, but that sense of belonging to the individual from whom they came.
    Thanks for commenting, twitches,

    Elizabeth

    Like

  11. systematicweasel says:

    These are wonderful poems! My family doesn’t have much to offer when it comes to things to “will off” or inherit, but the things they do have will be cherished in the family for a long time. Great post!

    -Weasel

    Like

  12. 1sojournal says:

    Weasel, and I think that says something both endearing and to be treasured in those of us who find agreement with your statement. We do treasure these rememberances, no matter their matuerial value. They become symbols of those who are no longer with us, but kept near in our thoughts and feelings. Thanks for sharing your thoughts,

    Elizabeth

    Like

  13. pamela says:

    Elizabeth these are two beautiful poems!
    I can completely relate to the one about your mom
    I also lost my mom not that long ago and I few things
    she left me will always remain hers.
    Pamela

    Pamela, my condolences, it can be so difficult at times. But, I’m glad I could work some of this confusion out in the poem. I love this immediate therapy and how swiftly and directly it works.

    Elizabeth

    Like

  14. eskenosen says:

    “Splitting Darkness” is my favorite–those last lines just feel inevitable. Just so spare and lovely.

    Like

  15. 1sojournal says:

    Thanks eskonsen, it will always be one of my very favorites. And I particularly liked your take on the prompt and how well you executed it.

    Elizabeth

    Like

  16. gospelwriter says:

    Beautiful poems, both – love the title of the first.

    I can completely understand the sentiments behind the separation of possessions into mine and hers. There are objects that have come to me after the death of their original owners, and even after decades, I can’t pick them up or look at them (even if only with my mind’s eye) without thinking: hers, or, his. I hadn’t thought of it, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sweet memories.

    Like

  17. 1sojournal says:

    Ruth, the title took a while. Had the poem within a few hours of seeing the prompt, but all I could think of for the title was “My Mother’s Things”, and that didn’t come close to what I was trying to get at in the poem. So, I let it sit, and when it was time to put it here, and I began to type, the title felt like it was waiting here, for me. Sorry, the process seems still so much a mystery at times, one built from good honest labor sprinkled with a few handfuls of magic, and personally it is the magic that keeps me coming back.

    “Sweet memories.” Yes, and some rather delightful ones as well. I am the only one in my family who has ever gotten a divorce. When we were shuffling through my Mother’s numerous photo albums, we came upon a formal portrait of I and my four children. It had been taken before I chose to end the marriage, and Mom had carefully and very neatly snipped my ex-spouse from the photo. Never said anything to anyone and put the photo back into its proper place within the album. My three siblings, a brother-in-law, and I, instantly erupted into hoots of raucous laughter and clapping, right there in Mom’s living room. It made going to the funeral home to make the arrangements for her funeral, an hour later, so much easier somehow.

    Thanks so much for the comments,

    Elizabeth

    Like

  18. wayne says:

    WONDERFUL…WONDERFUL…thanks for sharing

    Like

  19. 1sojournal says:

    Thanks Wayne, I like wonderful, lol. And it won’t come as any surprise to anyone that I also have a deep liking for sharing as well.

    Elizabeth

    Like

  20. Heartfelt poems that have a universal appeal. Inherited possessions come with stories appended to their very fiber.

    Beautifully written and haunting on their honesty.

    Like

  21. 1sojournal says:

    Linda, I think that’s what originally drew me to personal poetry. That universal appeal and the depth of honesty with which it should and often does resonate. What kept me there was that we are often told to write about those things we know about. My desire was to know the me that existed both inside and out. The poetry allows me that and gives me an ever changing and evolving story both to know and to tell.

    Thank you for reading and for your very generous comments,

    Elizabeth

    Like

  22. The feelings you describe in Addendum are ones I can’t know personally, but I feel like your poem has allowed me, in a profound way, to experience them.

    Like

  23. 1sojournal says:

    Elizabeth, your comment sort of knocked me sideways, when I first read it. Pulled up a dozen questions, I shall not voice, yet also a sense of completeness I don’t think I’ve ever had before. I am deeply grateful that you did so and that you expressed that to me. We can so seldom know how our words are received by anyone.

    But, I must confess something. Every time I see your name come up, I have a reaction to it. I don’t often come in contact with others who carry my name, and the name itself seems to give newly met acquaintances an immediate problem. Most want to chop it up, cut it down, or find some easier path to the person who wears it and is defined by it. Personally, I love it, and have worked hard to climb inside of it and make it my home. And when I see you, wearing it, I know that I am coming in contact with a totally different, new aspect of myself and my own possibilities. Something I have not been aware of before, but am eager to learn about and get to know. And, at my age, that is exciting and feels very much like a promise. So, thank you, and for the very same reasons.

    Elizabeth

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  24. Cara Holman says:

    Two years ago, we had to empty my parents’ house, and though my house is now full of their possessions, including the picture I wrote about, they will always belong to them. It brings me great comfort, however, to have these familiar objects around me. Your poem really struck a chord with me. (And I have almost the same owl ring– my sister gave it to me when we were in our teens.)

    Like

  25. 1sojournal says:

    Cara, it would seem that this taking possession of loved ones’ possessions has a similar affect on many individuals. That sense of somehow keeping that person within easy reach. That knowledge will, I’m sure, make my own acceptance easier to deal with.

    I have never seen another one like the one I wear, and your statement gave me a warm feeling and brought a smile to my face. Because my writing is always within the genre of personal, and also because I am aware of the shadow element within the human psyche, the owl’s ability to split darkness is of prime importance to me. I can’t think how a writer would proceed without that added element of seeking out what lives only in shadows. Congratulations to both of us, I think,

    Elizabeth

    Like

  26. Paul Oakley says:

    So much tightly bound together here, Elizabeth. I particularly love the Addendum, with the presentation of your daughter, the connection of special stuff to the people with whom we have special relationships. Very nice!

    Like

  27. 1sojournal says:

    Paul,

    your comment creates a contradiction for me. You speak of my response as tightly bound, while I feel that I have finely loosened my death grip on the words themselves. Going back, and finding and using some of my older, yet still favorite pieces of poetry, has made me so aware of the change in my voice over those intervening years. I was even fearing that I might have gotten a bit too relaxed, lol. Lounging instead of using proper posture? The difference is so apparent to me, and I would think to those who are reading this mix of styles and voice. And forgive me, I think I’m talking more to myself here than to you. But, it seemed important to note.

    And I love the Addendum as well. I read the two pieces to an old friend, and when I got to the end, she was giggling helplessly. When she recovered, she said, “That is so you, and I can see you doing just that. Don’t know anyone else who would think of it, but you, and I’m sure that you would find a way to bring it about.” Then broke out in even more gales of laughter and I had to join in.

    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, you’ve given me some things to think about,

    Elizabeth

    Like

  28. Tumblewords says:

    These are terrific – full of vivid images, heartfelt appreciation and the specialness that defines an item that has become ‘you’. Wonderful!!

    Like

  29. 1sojournal says:

    Tumblewords, thank you for the wonderful comments. And I’m glad you enjoyed the poems.

    Elizabeth

    Like

  30. I enjoyed the variety of the pieces, yet they also do fit together. The back story in the addendum was great, especially that twist of an ending. I have a hard time even wearing second-hand clothes from thrift stores, so I don’t think I’d do very well with inherited items from people I knew.

    Like

  31. 1sojournal says:

    Hi Francis, and thank you for reading and commenting. I’m glad that you enjoyed the poems and saw the connections between them. I think I was trying to show a variety of responses to the possessions prompt, especially as they occur all in the same individual. And, more than ever, after writing them, I am convinced that whatever reaction we ‘possess’, it is far more deeply involved in the person who owned them, rather than the what of the object itself.

    Elizabeth

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