New draft of Heirlooms poem for comment

Heirlooms

For this family no precious objects,

collections to be loaned to museums

or passed down as heirlooms.

Scarce enough money sometimes

to put food on the scrubbed table

or buy corduroys for the boys

to cover their bare bums.

 

Yet on the surprising tide

some treasure is brought to shore.

What strange waves brought to me

this package of tattered letters?

Paper is worn to silk, envelopes torn

by eager fingers when they first arrived

bringing news from home.

 

Some are written on paper ripped

from schoolbooks, or on the backs

of things no longer needed,

no notepaper to speak of in the house.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “New draft of Heirlooms poem for comment

  1. Just occurred to me: is that last line a quote from the letters? The italics suggest it, also that it has a slightly apologetic sound, as if the letter-writer is explaining why the unorthodox stationery’s being used. I like the idea of it coming from the letters. I think this draft feels tighter than the last.

  2. Yes, that’s right Sheenagh. I tend to use italics for speech and quotes. The ‘bare bums’ is as well, but I have changed her word order so haven’t italicised. Glad you like it better, I have made many gains by cutting what niggled you and changing the cliche for something which works better as it has more resonance with the poverty and the consonance it creates adds to the music. Thanks for your help.

  3. I think you could pare the middle stanza down quite a bit and increase the impact. Suggested cuts in parenthesis:

    (Yet on the surprising tide

    some treasure is brought to shore.)

    What strange waves brought to me

    this package of (tattered) letters?

    Paper is worn to silk, envelopes torn

    by eager fingers when they (first) arrived

    bringing news from home.

    Use or toss, as you like :o)

    • Thanks Angela. I need the first though as I am distinguishing between the original recipient (my aunt) in 1923 and myself having discovered them in 2010, via a friend. These poems will all be in a sequence so one will unfold out of another, but I am wondering whether I have said this clumsily and that’s why you find it unneeded.

  4. I was seeing the distinction- but can’t tell if that is because I already know of the letters’ existence.

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