© 2008 -- 2011 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Occasional poem

That sounds like a description of my writing frequency.

Actually it's a kind of poem that is written to commemorate a specific occasion. I've done several, including poems my parents required at Thanksgiving to be read before the meal. One year, it would be the sons' turn (there were four of us) to write and read the poems. Then the next year it would be the daughters-in-law's turn. (Someone in the group would always go for the sentimental statement, but mostly we went after the laugh.)

Occasional poems are never really easy to write. There are several reasons. The two most immediate reasons that come to mind are, first, they need to be focused on the specific occasion, and, second, if you're writing a poem for it, the occasion is probably very significant and deserving of your best effort. One of the challenges is to not "force" the imagery to fit the situation. The poet needs to let the poem, to borrow an image from Frost, ride on it's own melting like an ice cube on a hot stove. But sometimes poems go where you don't expect them to go. So, how do you reign them in without reigning them in?

Another challenge is they are usually very public poems. They are often meant to be read at the specific occasion. That's a lot more pressure than a poet experiences at a typical poetry reading. Yes, you want your listeners to get it, and they always have their own preconceived notions. But with an occasional poem, you know what their notions are. Or at least, you know what they think their notions are.

This poem created extra problems for me. When my oldest son got married, he asked me to write a poem for the ceremony. Then he asked his brother if he would read it. I don't write under a deadline, and I don't like to think about embarrassing my family when I write. So it wasn't an easy task. I decided to write a double sonnet. It took several months of writing and revising while I worried whether I could measure up. This is what I came up with.

For J and R

When I was small, I had a place to be
That I called home, and all my world was there.
The sun, the stars, the wind were mystery,
Each day a jewel, and wonder everywhere.

The seasons changed. I watched the snow outside
My window, saw the crocus where the snow
Had been. I saw the birds of summer glide
Above the fields and watched the sun dip low

Against the southern sky. Then suddenly
My home had grown too small, the rooms too spare.
I watched the birds assemble in the air,
Rehearse their flight, then vanish from the trees,

And I was seized with longing, a need to go
Where they had gone, to know the things they know.

The world around me changed. The wind brought
Melodies as sweet as figs, and I could see
Horizons glowing as gold as apricots.
But when I started out, I never thought
I’d find a place to mean as much to me
As home--or as the place I once called home,
For when I turned around, it wasn’t there,
And all the things I’d found I couldn’t share,

Until today, when we as groom and bride,
Come before these people and say as one
That we have found a place to be. I’ve come
To be yours and you to be my journey’s guide.

I say before the world I’ve found a home.
I say to you my home is at your side.

For J and R, Saturday, November 18, 1995
Nashua, New Hampshire

© copyright 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog
All rights reserved


  1. Good job!

    Poetry is so therapeutic!

  2. beautifully written I enjoyed it thank you

  3. Occasional poems are like paid writing; hard to do and a little uninspiring. But you kicked that around the yard, Grandpa: that was really nice, well done :)

  4. What's more difficult than writing a poem for a special occasion... writing a poem that reflects your adult child's love for another with your own voice. I had a counselor friend who said he was counseling his mother,difficult! (-and not a good idea) I think the poem writing task was a chore...and still it came off exceptionally well.

  5. Excellent work sir! "To be yours and you to be my journey’s guide."
    brilliant! I salute you!

    Clayrn Darrow

  6. You always seem apolgetic about this one, but I love it.

    With you I've found my home.

  7. A fine poem. There are a lot of good things here, particularly the first verse, which I htought set a tone for the poem. And then:
    And I was seized with longing, a need to go
    Where they had gone, to know the things they know.
    I can recall wondering where the moon had gone when I was small - and wondering if I could go there. Had it gone to see other children?

  8. Aaaww, that is so sweet it brought tears to my eyes. And I love the beautiful imagery re: changing seasons of the year and of life.

    You did a great job.

  9. This is beautiful Grandpa. So very true as well. Excellent.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  10. A really beautiful poem, beautifully written! I'm sure your son and his bride appreciated it. Good work, Grandpa! Thanks for sharing it!

  11. Excellent post. And thank you for the follow, sir. I look forward to reading much more from "Grandpa."

  12. I love the poem - but I must admit I love the prose that you wrote reflecting on your poem even more.

  13. What a beautiful poem! I can only imagine what the bride and groom felt as they heard the poem read, especially if they had never heard it before. Very touching.

  14. This poem has wonderful flow to it! Loved it. It captures the transition so very well. Thanks for sharing it with us!