Simple Images

we exchanged the favor of photographs with a beautiful pair of strangers.

I had a really wonderful weekend with my sons. We did some of the things we like to do, and we laughed a lot. We had dinner on Sunday with my oldest sister and her family. My sister has two brilliant, beautiful teenage daughters and while we were all making dinner (fresh pasta, from scratch–and so many useful pairs of hands to help) they were recounting how the girls were making up songs and singing show tunes late Saturday night. At literally that exact moment, in my living room across town, my sons had this janky baseball set-up that involved a blue stress ball, a wicker basket backstop, and a metal water bottle as a bat. There was some shark documentary playing on the TV screen and I was laying on the couch reading The Sympathizer (which is SUCH a great novel) sometimes looking up to call fouls. The only way that moment could have been better is if they had been singing show tunes. Can’t have it all, though.

Edited to add: I’ll be at the Gaithersburg Book Festival this weekend talking about writing traumatic stories (oy) with some really amazing fellow memoirists, and I’d love to see you there.

Our prompt today is from Matt Rasmussen’s brilliant book, Black Aperture. I am pretty sure I’ve shared this poem with you before because it’s one of my favorite poems. So simple and clear. Take a single image and write it out. It can be as stripped away from context as the poem below, or you can fill in a bit. Below is one I wrote this morning, a moment from our Mother’s Day hike. Below that is a pared down version. I think I prefer the filled in version, but in the paring down, I discovered some ways that I might strengthen the original. Editing is everything!!! Edit your work!!! It will make you smarter (and also really frustrate you sometimes). Send me poems!!!

Here’s mine:

Mother’s Day 2017

He removes one sock and shoe, extends his right foot
and balances on his left sneaker one arm extended
hovering in the air near my shoulder.
I sit steady in the sun, on this sometimes cliff, ready to catch him,
refusing to tell him no or be careful though the words
are in my throat. The murky water is nearer, higher & more violent
than usual. A log passes, and the floating fallen body
of a tree, leaves and all, a mangled nest dangles
from its outstretched branches.
He wants to feel the temperature,
know through his flesh how dangerously the river rushes by.
He dips his foot (a bony bird-like flexed thing, nearly as long as my own)
into the water, teeters then quickly moves to higher ground
to tie his laces with quick fingers.
We both sigh, him with exhilaration
& me with a relief I know is temporary.
We gather our belongings and continue
over the dusty rocks, between the green
edges of the path, through the woods
on a trail that keeps changing.


Mother’s Day 2017

He extends right foot and balances
wants flesh knowledge of the river’s rush

then moves to higher ground.

We continue on a changing trail


Bonus content: My sons won’t agree/admit that this is our family song, but I play it on special occasions. It’s important to have traditions. I hadn’t seen the video before but my goodness. You’re gonna want to see this.




One thought on “Simple Images

  1. Pete

    I really liked stripping an experience out of context and focusing on the moment. The jar rolling down concrete steps is brilliant. I felt a little fear with each “step” of the poem.

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