Poem of the Week: “The Ice-Edge of Innocence”

It was October 2012 and I needed one more poem to reach the desired number for the chapbook I wanted to publish the following spring. But what happens when you don’t have a clue what to write about because inspiration has taken a lengthy holiday?

I sat with blank page and pen in hand, trying to dredge up an image, a memory, a thought, something. And got nothing, until the bright idea hit to go look at an old blank book someone gave men me in college, which after more than two decades was still not filled, in the hope that some forgotten notes would light a spark.

I found two, quotes from a member of an old writer’s group jotted down during a meeting years before, neither of which now made a lick of sense, but one of which particularly stood out, and became the title of this poem.

Even as I wondered what could have inspired such a remark, a picture formed in my mind within seconds of reading it. That’s it, I thought, and headed back to the quiet bedroom in which I’d gone to curl up in a recliner and wait for inspiration to strike.

It did now, but not as I expected. In one of those curious instances that make me wonder just how the mind’s creative process works, I closed my eyes and instead of the image I’d seen just a minute or so before and planned to use, came a new one, sharp as a magazine photograph: A woman in a wintry wood, clad in winter hat and coat.

Before I could do more than register her appearance, the picture went dark for a split-second and then she reappeared, this time facing me directly. She was young, lovely, with dark hair and large dark eyes that were wide, expectant, eager. And this time, a hot-pink scarf circled her neck.

I closed my eyes again and a man appeared, slightly less clear but who looked to be about ten years her senior, in the same black and white wintry wood. Hatless, with lightly graying hair, dressed in an overcoat. In stark contrast to her open demeanor, there was a trace of strain about his older, more worldly features.

I’d never seen either one of them before, but they saw each other . . . and were, clearly, intimately connected.

The phrase that originally made no sense suddenly did, and I began to write.

* * *

THE ICE-EDGE OF INNOCENCE

You want to teeter on the brink
of that first step
toward black water,

find yourself groundless,

persuasion a pink scarf
you tentatively finger.

A stranger’s crunching footstep
brought you to this perfect space
for drowning.

Remembering the taste of snow,
you don’t look back,
a cold so pure it burns

your only guide to seeing in the dark.

Frozen pond

* * *

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

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