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Why Do You Write?

I’ll never forget the question. I paused, looked up at the woman, and said something like this:

“It helps me wrap my mind around whatever I’m dealing with.” (These days that would be aging, grandchildren, covid-19.)

“I get a little edgy, all bent out of shape when I don’t write, so it’s to everyone’s advantage that I write.”

And, "I guess I no longer know how to get by in this world without putting my thoughts and feelings on a sheet of paper or into a computer."

I don’t really know why other poets write. I can’t speak for them, but they have been my teachers. This is April, National Poetry Month. I’ve been putting a poem or two in my blogs each week, to honor poets and poetry. I am grateful to the poets I’ve encountered, in person or in print. They have shared and shown me how I can use the poetic form to deal with whatever life throws at me, reporting what I see, hear, feel, touch, smell, think. Brave poems show the insides of me.

Poets, I love your images (word-pictures) and your poetic ways of showing me the hard rain, a melancholy thought, the needle-strewn ground, the ache and groan, the empty hours, roots almost too deep to see, a smile that lights up a city block. You have given gifts to me. I am much obliged, as my father would say with a firm handshake.

The following poems are from my four books. I give them to whomever in hopes that one will be a gift to someone.



Driving at daybreak,

we pulled up and onto the pavement

of Push Mountain Road.

We headed northeast

toward Matney Knob to begin

the long ride.

As we approached Zimmerman Peak,

we could see a man, up high, standing

on a ledge, staring at the eastern sky

drinking the rising dawn. He stood

straight-back, sipping from a cup.

My husband slowed the car

to wave his full hand and greet

the nobleman of this rock-ribbed

mountaintop. Mr. Zimmerman,

twenty years older than he, answered

by lifting his mug high in salute

as we passed.

Ahead, the road hugged the Knob.

A crimson sky streaked with peach

burst upward, like a flower unfolding.

Then we abruptly curved back north.

My husband saw a man

welcoming the day and life. I thought

I saw one gentle man toast

and bless another.

-- from Blind Curves, by Pat Durmon


Painted Nails

At first the family cowered,

saying nothing about painted nails.

The moments were like walking

on eggshells. A nursing home,

new to one and all. No stumbling,

no missteps welcome.

Then Mother poked at us

by asking another “why” question.

Eggshells flew everywhere,

over the linoleum, onto window sills—

fragmented and fragile.

Stunned, we sons and daughters

either froze or negotiated delicate steps.

No place to stand without driving

fine white daggers into shoes.

But when someone made mention

of her nails, she looked down

at both hands like she might consider

an August peach. Her words

sprayed sunlight: “My first time….”

It looked like a white flag.

-- from Lights and Shadows in a Nursing Home, by Pat Durmon



I beheld it

soon after the dogwoods budded.

The river in its unapologetic way

swelled and splashed through thickets,

edging the banks. It pecked away

at roots and runners

of thick canebrakes

leaning east.