When I invited fellow artists in the Habit online community to do a creative collaboration with me, I gave them the following prompt:
- Explore the theme of “Winter Eyrie,” centering on the concept of an eagle’s nest in the heights, or a house/fortress on a hill or mountain. In any form or genre, describe a place like an eyrie: a refuge, nest, stronghold, haven, or citadel: a place which feels completely safe and at peace, especially if the outer world is confusing or scary.
- Challenge: Try a form, method, or angle you haven’t tried before, such as a new poetic meter or prose style.
I’ll publish the work of writers who joined in throughout March. I’m looking forward to seeing how this creative play reenchants this late-winter season.
The first contribution is a poem by Jesse Baker – a meditation on a winter night. Enjoy!
Intro by Jesse Baker
I recently read Mary Oliver’s book Rules for the Dance for the first time. I have an attraction to metered poetry, and always wanting to learn more about the topic, I followed a friend’s advice to read it. Though there is so much good information in the book, surprisingly what most captured my attention did not deal with meter at all. Instead, it was her chapter titled “Image-Making.” Oliver naturally included topics like simile and metaphor, but she also spent some time on poems which do not use much imagery within themselves; rather, the poem itself is the image. (If you are curious, the main example Oliver used to discuss the matter was Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”) I was intrigued by this idea, so I decided to give it a try. One ironic feature in this experiment, both given my temperament and the subject of Oliver’s book, was that I decided to break from my usual path of meter in order to try something in free verse.
A Night Not All Unwelcome
by Jesse Baker
Last night, amid the darkness,
I briefly stepped outside
To undo something forgotten;
And, the full February moon,
Standing alone in the pitched sky,
Begged for my attention.
She reminded me of childhood
Nights, and how I would borrow
Her light as I walked to our
Chicken house, nestled in the trees
Down a darkened and wooded road,
To gather hen eggs.
She also brought to mind the
Wonder of those nights when
Her full light glimmered
Off the earth’s snowy blanket,
Gently placed over previous days,
Giving me both a brighter path to tread and
Some glimpse of what the psalmist
Might have meant when he said, “The night is as
Bright as the day,” to you.
I had the picture of the full moon shining off snow in my mind for a while. It really was a marvelous sight when I was younger, one of the many gifts that came with growing up in the mountains of West Virginia. Now living in central North Carolina, some heretofore unknown alignment of stars would have to meet before I am likely to see that snowy miracle again. But the moon I encountered a couple weeks ago, the one that sent me inside to put something on paper, almost made up for it. This scene assured me that on dark nights, whether an actual dark winter night in February or even the occasional dark night of the soul, hope can still be found. There was an element of lament in writing this poem. It is not an accident that it ends with a quote from the Psalms, as I hoped, like many of the lament psalms, even in dark moments praise can still be the last word to roll off our tongues.
Jesse Baker loves wearing t-shirts of his favorite authors, studying the Bible, and using poetry as a way of tying the seemingly disparate features of this world together. Jesse is a pastor, living in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.
“Amid the darkness I briefly stepped outside to undo something forgotten”– those are beautiful words that conjure an opening to me. I know it is the opening to your poem, but, as such, it is also the opening to a journey. I read your journey in the words that followed, but the words also feel like an invitation for me to go on a journey… what have I forgotten that I might undo if I now step outside? Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem.
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