Sky where roof used to be
where everything you’ve lost is found
air full of past
burn destructed and then reborn
belonging in harm’s way
for memories held that don’t
wisp away like smoke
embers fall from grace
ledges of life
out of synchronicity
papery images of past
I drive by
burned roof open to moving sky
This poem was inspired by actual events (I guess all poems are, in one way or another).
One morning, driving to school, we noticed that a house on a street near the school had partially burned. My youngest daughter remained fascinated by the sight of it for weeks, as did I. We wondered what the story was: who lived there, were they OK, and what caused the fire?
Then the story appeared in our local paper. A woman had lived in the house with her cat, she had Alzheimer’s. Her son lived next door. Early one morning she was sitting out on her front porch when a neighbor (not her son) noticed the fire and helped get her off the porch and save her cat. She may have left the burner on, heating water for tea, she can’t remember. No one was hurt in the fire and everyone is grateful. It was her dream house, it will be rebuilt.
A few days later, driving by the remains of the house I was struck by the phrase, “sky where roof used to be” as through the jagged hole in the damaged roof you could see the juxtaposed blue sky and the clouds moving through it. I was inspired to construct a poem based on that phrase and the story of the woman, and wanted to have a photo of the damaged roof with the sky. I kept meaning to stop and take the photo. One evening, driving home from back to school night, I remembered again that I needed to take that photo. I kept driving as I felt the pull to get home as I’d been gone for several hours. Then something inside compelled me to turn back and actually get the photo taken.
The next morning I drove by the house again and the roof remains had been demolished to make way for the rebuild.
I finished this poem a few days later.
The holiday season of 2012 has come and gone. I have spent time with various members of my family and tried to give them glimpses of some new pieces of myself and some of my new ideas about the world. The experience reminded me that sometimes it can be hard to be to be a new, different person with those people whom we have spent a large portion of our life with. It’s easy to fall back into an old way of being; and this is not always a bad thing.
A few years ago I met up with one of my college roommates for a girls weekend. We hadn’t seen each other in quite some time, yet it felt like no time had passed. We saw each other as the same people we had been. We didn’t have to negotiate our roles with each other, we already knew which of us would lead in different situations. When we got into the car for the first time that weekend, she drove and I navigated, and that is how we’d done it in college. In some cases, it’s nice not to have to go through a renegotiation process in our relationships and just be how we’ve been before.
But sometimes we want to start anew, in one area or all areas of our relationship. Sometimes we want to show people that we have changed, but we don’t know how to introduce that into the existing relationship. Sometimes we see their reactions to new ideas we have or new pieces of ourselves and we realize that there is a reason that we haven’t been that way with them. And sometimes they react in unexpected new ways themselves, and show us a new piece of themselves.
As we attempt to share our new selves, we also need to recognize when someone else is trying to share their new way of being with us, and be open and curious to it, rather than inherently react negatively to the unexpected. As I attempted to share new pieces of myself with my family, I also noticed that they tried to share new pieces of themselves with me. And I wasn’t always open to it, my initial internal reaction sometimes was negative or judging. I had to remember that it is a two-way street.
In this time of new year’s resolutions, I guess that the best we can do is to keep trying. If our new way of being is important enough to us, we can have the courage to bring it out into to open, and not hide in ourselves of the past. Whether other people react positively or negatively to it, we can still be true to ourselves. We must also allow other people the freedom do the same, and acknowledge and encourage the new pieces of themselves that they reveal to us.