I’M ENVIOUS of something my friend Daniel has done in retirement. For many months, he has participated in a writing class sponsored by the senior center in Olympia. The instructor has challenged his class with countless assignments in which they delve into their past. As Daniel has shared many of those pieces I’ve learned much more than I’ve ever known about my longtime friend, a long-ago college roommate as well as best man at my wedding. And I’ve watched his writing talents soar.
A recent assignment was a little different. The writers were instructed to compose five quick poems, at least eight lines apiece and no more than 10, with each line beginning “I am…” and completing with a metaphor. Writing time limit: 10 minutes per poem.
It sounded like an intriguing challenge. I decided to try it, and I kind of surprised myself. The time limit strips you bare, prohibiting careful introspection.
Here’s what I came up with. Some of the themes: my feelings of loss, in both personal life and career; aging and widower-hood; my love of nature; my feeling of facing a blank slate, with the scary option to reinvent myself. Other stuff you can figure out.
I AM A WANDERING DEER, munching the tenderest leaves I can reach.
I am the sire teaching his fawn the ways of the wood.
I am the bereft mate, left when hunters shot without regard.
I am the angry buck, clashing antlers with bullies from across the island.
I am a tamed follower of trodden paths.
I am an aimless animal who lunges through ferns.
I am nature’s howl.
I am a wild thing who dances in the moonlight, forever.
I AM A FULLY RIGGED SAILBOAT on a wild beam reach.
I am the lazy seal watching it go by.
I am the eel grass, nourishing life.
I am the papa orca harried by tourist boats.
I am the baby orca leaping for joy as cameras click.
I am phytoplankton, glowing in the dark only if you look.
I am a pretty reef, dangerous if you hit me.
I am a finely balanced compass, never lost at sea.
I AM A WIDE-EYED CHILD sitting by a wall.
I am Father Time scribbling in a notebook.
I am the storyteller with a rapt audience.
I am the screenwriter washing cars and pumping gas.
I am the air traveler boasting of his million miles.
I am the tour guide who knows all the corny jokes.
I am Marco Polo, lost in Mongolia.
I am the streaky old pen, running out of ink.
I AM THE TRAIN you rode yesterday, when getting there mattered.
I am a whiff of wood smoke, lost on the wind.
I am the rain you wished we had, but now there’s no umbrella.
I am the salt without the pepper, and remember when we had oregano?
I am an old favorite dish, and you’ll have me again. Soon.
I am the fresh green broccoli turning yellow in the fridge.
I am the trousers that used to fit.
I am washed, folded and put away, and now what do you do with the dryer sheet?
I AM A NEW CHEVY just off the production line, and forget the old Dodge.
I am the odometer set at 000000.
I am the new-car smell.
I am the first bend in the road up into the mountains you love.
I am the hybrid, with fewer stops at the pump.
I am the blank travel log you just tucked into the glove box.
I am the hot wheels flying off a cliff, and kids do not try this at home.
I am the miles to go before you sleep.