Poetry Revision

I haven’t played with poetry this semester as much as I have in past semesters. Even so, this week I sat down to practice revision. I used revision suggestions from The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux.

First, a quick edit of my draft:

Gray day facing the sea,
waves turning over seaweed,
plastic bottles, shells,
our kids in the froth

Between us we’ve touched
all continents but Antarctica
We know how to pack a suitcase,
bringing what we’ll miss most:
cheese, chocolate, vodka,
the right pens, affordable shoes
Between us we know how to make
temporary permanent enough
so our kids make it through okay
and our marriages do alright
We paint walls, hang photos,
insist on familiar, heavy books
to fill shelves

Some places you just can’t make it
from the start or near the end
Oil and water,
your body and all the others
Even if you want to like it,
you can’t

Our kids come up from the waves,
shivering, kicking up sand,
hungry from play

It is good to sit
and look at the sea,
making it enough

And now, with lines cut and slight changes to how it looks on the page:

Gray day facing the sea,
waves turning over seaweed,
plastic bottles, shells,
our kids in the froth
Between us we’ve touched
all continents but Antarctica
We know how to pack a suitcase:
cheese, chocolate, vodka,
the right pens, affordable shoes
Between us we know how to make
temporary permanent enough
so our kids make it through okay
and our marriages do alright
We paint walls, hang photos,
insist on familiar, heavy books
to fill shelves

Some places you just can’t make it
from the start or near the end

Our kids come up from the waves,
shivering, kicking up sand,
hungry from play

And last, paring to the stanza that sparked the poem, and trying new:

Some places you just can’t make it
from the start or near the end
rural Wisconsin
New York
Kuwait
Even if you want to like it
you can’t
marriage
new motherhood
church
I make love a duty
to like this day enough

I drew the draft from a day at the beach with other expat moms, and from separate conversations over the years here. I like that a first draft turned out two different pieces. And I really like the line another woman said

Some places you just can’t make it

and how I finished it

from the start or near the end

The second revision includes another idea I’ve been thinking about, that sometimes love is a duty and there isn’t anything wrong admitting feeling comes much later, or not at all. That we love because it is right.

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