Poem of the Week: “Nocturne”

About a decade ago, I overheard the following conversation between my grandmother, who was nearly 90 or a little past it, and my mother, regarding a poem I had recently written (not the one below), which I’d given my grandmother to read:

“Joan? Did you read Lucie’s poem?”

“Yes,” said my mother.

“Did you understand it?”

My mother indicated that she had, at least in part.

Said my grandmother: “Well, I didn’t.” Then, after a pause: “That poem didn’t rhyme.”

My mother told her that rhyming poetry was largely out of fashion, but as my grandmother was already quite hard of hearing at that point, I’m not sure how much she caught. Then she remarked that when she was coming up, “Poetry was ‘Roses are red, violets are blue . . . I love you.'”

After another brief exchange and considering pause, Grandma queried, “Do you suppose you have to go to college to learn to write like that?”

* * *

The answer to her question was, of course, no, but the fact is that in my first college creative writing class, my instructor, himself a poet, wouldn’t allow anyone to write rhyming verse unless it was song lyrics. I don’t recall the reason, but what I perceived at the time as a general bias in the writing world against rhyme made an impression on me that lingered for so long, I was still rather surprised when this week’s offering not only burst forth in what was for me near-record time (30-45 minutes), but in the unintended rhythm it did.

It has held a special place in my heart ever since.

I couldn’t tell you why, though. I don’t class it among my best work, nor can I recall what sparked the shadowy mental image that accompanied it (while I was at work, no less). Yet it nestles in its own tiny corner like a favorite child.

As for whether the addition of rhyme made it easier to understand, I would have told my grandmother all those years later, if I’d thought of it, “No, not necessarily” . . . remembering, as I do with fond amusement, shoving it under my mother’s nose the moment she returned home from grocery shopping and saying, “Read this!”

Her response?

“Well, honey, it sure must be good, because I can’t understand a word of it.”

* * *


Now stalks the ever-hunter,
creeping by on muted feet:
Furtive beauty, grace and cruelty
to unknowing eyes—discreet:cat

Warrior hunter hunted
down an ashcan alley street
where remembrance old, unconscious
guides survival of the fleet:

The revels of the gamester
spill into his well-earned sleep:
Trouncing midnight phantoms,
spinning fast and dreaming deep . . .

* * *

From The Soundness of Broken Pieces, © 2012 by Lucie M. Winborne. Available from Middle Island Press.


2 thoughts on “Poem of the Week: “Nocturne”

  1. I’m with your grandmother on the issue of rhyming. I’ve always thought the prejudice against it was pretentious. But I’m with your mother on this particular poem. I don’t understand it, but I like the rhythm and the rhyme.

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