Burnt Sacrifice

For The Sunday Whirl: Wordle #83
http://sundaywhirl.wordpress.com/

And for November PAD Challenge: Image #18
http://1sojournal.wordpress.com/

Burnt Offerings
Photograph
by
Elizabeth Crawford

Burnt Sacrifice

Unless mistaken,
found peculiar beauty
in silence we offered
for words gone wrong
that never belonged
on paper.

Five faces distorted,
softened in shadows thrown
by flickering flames of fire
we started to abort life
of what we had previously
written.

Busted up notebooks,
torn manila folders,
hundreds of filled pages:
pawns of pride, anger,
even hatred tossed into fresh smoke
of forgiveness.

Later, in darkness as we dispersed,
not even one whispered,
“I’m sorry.”

Elizabeth Crawford  11/18/12

Notes: True story. One of the outcomes of teaching for ten years was a writing group of five women. Only two of us had been published prior to coming together, one by one, through the classes I taught. We met for years, almost every week, and for years after I quit teaching. We had discussed doing the above and had each culled our files for things we needed to get rid of. It was definitely a healing experience, but one that should be entered
with a great deal of thought beforehand.

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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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24 Responses to Burnt Sacrifice

  1. vivinfrance says:

    Whenever I delete something, the odds are that I want it soon after.. A fine poem, Elizabeth. There are a couple of typos in the first stanza, unless they are deliberate examples of the sense of it?

    We first established certain clear parameters before we acted. Spelling errors were not among them. Thanks for the help, Viv,

    Elizabeth

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  2. Irene says:

    I found the backstory interesting and illuminating to the poem you had written, Elizabeth. It’s amazing that writing does something. Burning up your writing..is also something.

    Many of my students told stories of giving up and burning their previous writing. It always hurt me when I heard them, and I told them so. The bonfire, in the poem, had a specific goal, and reason, and came as the result of many discussions about ‘burnt sacrifices’ and the meaning behind those words and actions. We, as a group, were seeking healing and a new beginning. It worked. Thanks for commenting Irene,

    Elizabeth

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  3. Misky says:

    I reckon this is an extreme form of purging, Elizabeth. Wonderful poem, and I’m so glad that you gave us the background behind it.

    Misky, I began writing because it was damned good therapy. I still believe that. The bonfire, in the poem, was also good therapy, and yes, a specific type of purging. We were letting go of things that needed to be released: old wounds that needed healing, and truths that were no longer true to the individuals we had become. I’m glad we did.

    Elizabeth

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  4. Sometimes this type of cleansing is really healing, isn’t it. I used to wake in the night and scribble down my dreams on scraps of paper but come morning, couldn’t read a word I’d written. I’ve done this many times, written down a thought, screwed the paper up and thrown it in the trash only to remember and want to retrieve it among the potato peelings and tea bags…lol Yuck.
    Excellent read and, enjoyed the back story very much too.

    Daydreamer, it reminded me of the Phoenix and its flight from the flames. None of us entered this willy-nilly, or without a lot of thought. Because we all kept journals, of one sort or another, one of our parameters was to burn what could or would harm or hurt another. I tried to express that in the poem. Thanks for the comments,

    Elizabeth

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  5. Oh, yes…wow, sometimes even those hurting words need space to just be even if they don’t see the light of day…but on the other hand releasing them to flame could be cathartic. Well done, Elizabeth!

    Hannah, for me it was a sacred act and an incredible milestone. Therapy is usually done in private, because in public it can be destructive and harmful (we see that everyday in the newspaper). And yes, it was extremely cathartic. Thanks for understanding,

    Elizabeth

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  6. drpkp says:

    Oh this is truly powerful – it reads like the beginning of a novel 🙂

    What an interesting idea, drpkp. We didn’t discuss the details of the things we chose to burn, but there was a contented calm quiet and mutual respect in that circle as we watched the smoke trail upward and away,

    Elizabeth

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  7. Laurie Kolp says:

    I don’t think I could do that.

    I would have said the same until we did it. I haven’t done it again, except with specifically written out prayer requests, and strangely enough, that had the same affect. Thanks Laurie,

    Elizabeth

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  8. brenda w says:

    Thank you for sharing this piece of your life, Elizabeth. When my daughter was young, we lived in a house with a wood stove. Every Christmas Thyra would write a letter to Santa, and throw it in the wood stove. We believed that the smoke carried her wishes to the North Pole. :

    I sacrificed more than one piece of writing up that chimney, “tossed into fresh smoke of forgiveness…”

    Thanks so much for understanding, Brenda. Perhaps it had a deeper affect on my person because I was a writing instructor who had told many classes of students never to burn, or toss out what they had written. And burnt letters to Santa share a similar symbolism: prayers for healing and forgiveness, slowly drifting upward to be heard in heaven.

    Elizabeth

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  9. Sherry Marr says:

    I so wish there had been those “I’m sorry’s”……..this reminds me of the First Nations treatment center where I worked. There was a ceremony called Healing of Memories” where the clients wrote letters, then burnt them, usually with tears, in a fire. Always – every time – eagles would circle overhead as the smoke rose up.

    That writing group sounds incredible…….I belonged to an amazing one in Tofino too.

    You caught the meaning well, my friend. And the group was and is incredible and very diverse. A traveling emergency RN, a mother who lost her four year old son to cancer and ran several non-profits for grieving parents, a dedicated church worker who sees the positive in almost all things, a dwarf with a degree in engineering, who raised her three children alone, and me who thought she could teach them something they didn’t already know. I brought them my stories of encounters with wild animals, many of which they participated in. And they constantly remind me of who and what I really am. Thanks Sherry,

    Elizabeth

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  10. This is one of my favorites! Loved the final verse!

    Annell, I’m not sure what I expected that night (perhaps tears and regret). Words can be a heavy burden unless released in some fashion. I will always be grateful for that night and the peace that surrounded us.

    Elizabeth

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  11. Thank goodness no one said sorry – it would have been too late! Probably felt good to get rid of those papers!

    Amazingly enough, it felt exceptionally good. Thanks for stopping in,

    Elizabeth

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  12. PJF Sayers says:

    Elizabeth, you did an excellent job with these words, because I found a few of them impossible to use. I am not sure I could throw my writing in a bonfire, but I could also see how it might have a cleansing effect. Love the poem and the back story.

    Pamela

    Thank you, Pamela. The words were difficult for me as well, because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about. When I finally decided, they sort of showed me where they fit and how. When we discussed it, I told the group, “If you have doubts, leave it out.” That worked for me as well. There were simply things I no longer needed to hold onto.

    Elizabeth

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  13. Mary says:

    Wow, the wordle words got lost in this poem, Elizabeth. It moved me deeply. I am glad the burning served a good purpose. Apparently everyone felt it was a good thing as no one said they were sorry. I’ve gotten rid of a few things I wouldn’t have want discovered after I die…LOL….but mostly I am a ‘hoarder’ of words!

    Remember….if you ever pass through this area…….

    I am a hoarder as well Mary. Therapy is a private thing as it should be. As a matter of fact, one of the ways I used to decide was exactly what you did. If I died tomorrow, what would happen if this was read. That made the decision much easier. Thanks so much for commenting. My car isn’t much good beyond the city limits. Can’t say when I will, but if I do, I will certainly call you,

    Elizabeth

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  14. seingraham says:

    I’m with Mary mostly on this … a hoarder of words is a good way to put it. I understand the need to purge also though. The one time I did need to get rid of some writing, it was stuff I’d written when I was extremely ill and it had hurt my family – even shredding wasn’t good enough – it was like putting lye in my eyes to see it, I couldn’t imagine them ever seeing it again – I burned it and stirred the ashes thoroughly…

    I think we all have some of those things lying around, or filed away. Those are the things we tossed on the fire. Thank you for understanding. I believe we were all ‘hoarders’ and it took the combined strength of the group to make it really work. And you are right, shredding wouldn’t have worked as the fire did,

    Elizabeth

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  15. ingerma says:

    Only after I started writing 3 years ago did I realize that it was self therapy. My writing has evolved thanks to learning from amazing writers like you, and other wordlers. I have a hard time throwing away stuff, and if I do, I always find I need it 2 weeks later. As for writing, I do delete drafts, but what I end up with stays on my blog. But I’m still just a baby writer 🙂

    And although I’ve been doing it for well over thirty years, I often think of myself as only a beginner. I save the drafts of my poems. It helps me when I go back and see where I came from, and sometimes to recover something good I might have tossed originally. Mostly, I believe we tossed out journal pages, rants, rage, and hatred that seemed so real in the moment, but no longer applied to the present state of reality. Thanks for your thoughts,

    Elizabeth

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  16. jasmine calyx says:

    Very good!

    Thank you, Jasmine,

    Elizabeth

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  17. magicalmysticalteacher says:

    Once upon a time, many years ago, in a fit of purging, I burned some things that I now wish I had, among them my high school yearbook. Fortunately, I was not into burning my high school poetry, which survives to this day.

    Another Whirl with Simon

    Oh, I’ve had that urge as well, but have yet to follow through on it. Maybe a once in a life time thing? One of my very first poems is on this blog and it was written well over thirty years ago. There are things I will always hang onto. Thanks for stopping in,

    Elizabeth

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  18. JulesPaige says:

    Thanks for your prompt and stopping by to visit my ‘offering’ – yes three different vignettes, Life is full of choices. At one point I gave/gifted a book of ‘love’ poems maybe some angst about a particular relationship with one of my first boyfriends to him. I don’t know if I was thinking I was saving a relationship, as that wasn’t the result. And I don’t think I kept copies…so it was a non-flame type of purging. I just wanted that collection out of my hands. Who knows if it even still exists, as he was not the gent I ultimately married.

    I wasn’t sorry then. And perhaps only a tad bit now that I didn’t save any copies. But that’s the way it goes.

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  19. Mama Pajama says:

    oh, this is wonderful…I have finally collected all my various, random pieces of notes, poems, and stories together in one book, and I am planning on burning the old papers as a sacred offering, to give myself the freedom I need to overcome the past and move on. thank you ~

    Like

  20. Cathy says:

    Great poem. Never burn a poem, it reminds me of burning of book too much but I find tearing them up just more satisfying.

    Like

  21. Tumblewords says:

    Interesting concept. Has so many tones of freedom and release.

    Like

  22. There is a feeling of ritual passing when burning one’s writing. I hold onto too much, and my “burn” is my shredder. I took to heart what you said about giving this act much consideration. I hate to burn my babies, so I shred old drafts! And pretend I’m cleaning house! (I know, what a cheater… wink) Peace, Amy
    http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/11/19/interview-with-sgt-davis-kabul-2012/

    Like

  23. Stan Ski says:

    I find it isn’t the words that are wrong… more the timing…
    Liked this one…

    Like

  24. Mary says:

    Indeed, Elizabeth, remembet to call if you get anywhere close………………….

    Like

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