Biographical Poetry posted March 26, 2017

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Prose poem and haiku

Dead Butterfly and Sleeping Giant

by Sis Cat

Mom told me once, twice, a thousand times the story of how my kindergarten teacher had visited our home and interrupted the poet: Mrs Wilson, Andre’s not learning at the same pace as his peers. He’s quiet in class and doesn’t know his numbers. Maybe it would be best if we held him back a year to repeat kindergarten.
My mother led my teacher to a doorjamb where I had crayoned numbers from one to ten: Andre knows his numbers. Just because he doesn’t write them on paper in class doesn’t mean he doesn’t know. The boy’s a sleeping giant and will learn at his own pace.
My teacher retreated from our home and advanced me to first grade.
As I grew, I groaned whenever Mom told me this story: Mom, I’m not a sleeping giant. I’m now a man of below average height. I want to be normal and not a poet like you, scribbling poems on paper scraps which clutter the house like confetti at a convention.
Like Jonah fleeing the presence of the Lord, I fled home and got a nine-to-five job: I don’t want to be a poet like you, Mom.
When she called, she asked: Have you been doing any writing?
—The only writing I do is typing the minutes to the staff meeting.
Undeterred, she wrote: I still say you’re a Sleeping Giant. Look out world!
Closing her letter, I thought: Yeah, right.
Years later, Mom wrote again: Expect some changes or a Divine Stir. We late bloomers usually wake up between 45 and early fifties.
Closing her letter, I thought: Yeah, right.
She then gave me a gift subscription to Poets & Writers and died.
Several months later, at the age of forty-eight, I started writing poetry.
I reopened and reread Mom’s letters: How did you know I would start writing after you died? I did not believe your Cassandra-like prophecy until I felt poetry in my heart, lived it in my body, and scribbled it with fingers bloodied from their thrust into your wound.
Mom, you possessed the faith of a butterfly. You laid your egg, well-knowing that you will never live to see your child emerge from his cocoon and fly.
after laying eggs
butterfly quivers and dies
wind blows confetti



What started off as a haibun (one or more paragraphs of prose written in a concise, imagistic style, and one haiku) evolved into a prose poem as I studied the prose poetry of Charles Baudelaire, Sonia Sanchez, and Jack Anderson. I thank whoever recently posted an Anderson-inspired prose poem. Mountainwriter49's recent tanka prose (stiff chocolate icing) also influenced me.

My late mother, Jessie Lee Dawson-Wilson, who taught three-line, seventeen-syllable haiku to children going all the way back to the 1960s, inspired my haiku with her own four-line, eighteen-syllable haiku from around 1972, which was likely inspired by the four-line haiku published in The Four Seasons (Peter Pauper Press: 1958):

This butterfly,
whose silent wings
no longer sing,
quietly says, "Thank you."

I quoted her letters written to me on July 13, 1994 and May 18, 2011, a year before her death.

Image Google.

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