"dazzle gradually"

"Dazzle Gradually" 2017 poems, paintings, new art & photography--a diary, a discipline, a delight. Read over my shoulder as I post my unedited poetry ---you can see it in the raw or get my first book and see how the work evolves with new books rolling out next year.

Polly Alice

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Things They Carried

I haven't read Tim O'Brian's book yet--which is titled the same as this post, but I like the idea.  I think their are at least three kinds of writers or at least ways we lay the foundation of our writing.  I am an object person.  Objects begin my stories, guide me through the process, and save the day: a medallion, a paintbrush, a loaf of bread, a basket.  And what better to admire an object than to write a poem.  I may avoid literal clutter by my magpie tendency to hoard fictional objects in my own private nest.  To me these objects say more about the characters and the action than anything else.  I'm not sure this is a common attribute.  I image most best-selling writers are either action or plot driven, but Alexander McCall Smith has a series that inspires me deeply-- and it is object driven.  Yes, Mma Ramotswe is the main character, but she is defined by her love for her "tiny white van," and the tea pot in which she makes bush tea.  Her assistant is defined by her large glasses, and her shoes sometimes speak aloud to her in a Hans-Christian-Anderson-type of way. 

To me objects are full of emotion, they inspire actions, hold back story, hint at destiny, and serve in place for boring adjectives or verbs.  Objects can by archetypes and can be understood by anyone and convey their own unique connotation for every reader.  Possibly this is why I've been sticking with list poems lately.  Or possibly because sorting items into groups is my way of cataloging a world in which my feet rarely have ever touched down.

Things they carried
1.  An old drum and flute we donated to a high school student in NW Minneapolis.  Her mother cried when we gave it to them. 
2.  Your kingergarten report card, a flawless record on yellow brittle paper.
3.  The newspaper article about when you won the kite contest in gradeschool, and the kite I bought at the beach when I was seventeen.
4.  The old Morgana the Sorceress costume from the 70's which I somehow turned into a peacock blue prom dress.
5.  A tiny blue and white porcelain tea set from China, cracked by my brother when he was three and reglued with my pink glue.
6.  The wind chimes you bought me on Main street promising that one day we would have a porch to hang them from.
7.  The watch held inside a glasses case.  Spectacles bought in Seattle by my grandmother bought before sailing to Japan in 1947.
8.  Tiny pointed shoes from India marked with the year 1972 given to me in a box from Aunt Polly, as she emptied all her treasures one at a time.
9.  The snapshot of our wedding flowers inside my wallet, still bright and true because it was before digital photography and the onset of fading photos.
10.  A tiny ivory quill with a carved elephant on top no bigger than my pinky nail.  Something I found when I was four years old, in a sand pile on the edge of the forest by my neighbors huge back yard under a barb wire fence.
These things we carried from place to place.  Some through twelve moves, and twelve schools on my part and a handful of each on yours.  We carried them in boxes and bags, in the back of trucks, moving vans, trucks, and cars, over at least three moves in February over the ice and some in the heat of June and we saved them and saved them.  And they are still here with us and may yet prove to be of some important purpose.  And we may wrap them up again and move them over mountains or an ocean or two, but some things we carry with us,
 I guess that is just what we must do.


  1. hmmm..a nice, thoughtful thing to read in the morning. Thanks for writing, Polly.

  2. So beautiful. Did I tell you I was in line to stay at Southwest Texas State U. and take Tim O'Brien's grad class on creative writing? Can you imagine? To leave that place broke my heart.

    I love how we all carry these things with us. My favorite of yours were the wind chimes. I'm still waiting to hang ours on a porch. One day soon maybe.


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