Monday’s Verse, December 29/08

No inspiration today. So I reached out to Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, and remembered one I’d heard him read at some point during my finals week. My housemate Jayna was at the table working, my housemate Erin was on her way out the door to meet some dreadful clinic, I was arriving home, starving. We all froze and listened while this one was read.

Looking at it now, it’s a perfect use of “formalized” free verse–I mean, it is a sonnet, but not in any of the rhyme-stanza schemes we’re most familiar
with. Instead it breaks stanzas using sense, plays with expectation through punctuation and line breaks, and skillfully mixes slant rhyme, end rhyme, internal rhyme, and assonance–all hallmarks of free verse. At first I chafed with the closing question (it struck me as sort of coyly rhetorical) but then re-considered that it’s kind of a cool alternative to the neat, rhymed, wrapping-up couplet of the Shakespearean model. Anyway, this is pretty, huh? That was really my first, and lasting response. Happy New Year ever’body! -ed.

by Patrick Phillips

Touched by your goodness, I am like
that grand piano we found one night on Willoughby
that someone had smashed and somehow
heaved through an open window.

And you might think by this I mean I’m broken
or abandoned, or unloved. Truth is, I don’t
know exactly what I am, any more
than the wreckage in the alley knows
it’s a piano, filling with trash and yellow leaves.

Maybe I’m all that’s left of what I was.
But touching me, I know, you are the good
breeze blowing across its rusted strings.

What would you call that feeling when the wood,
even with its cracked harp, starts to sing?


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