My Top Ten Poems: #9 “Life Continues—Unconquered”

Life Continues—Unconquered

Dream fades,
Eyelids retract,
Sun illuminates,
Body moans,
Spirit awakens,
Pulse quickens,
Consciousness streams,
Reality unfurls,
Day begins,
Legs traverse,
Life continues—
Unconquered.

     For a long time, I’ve been a night person. A real “moondog” as it were. One who revels the time when the responsibilities of the day have been put to rest and there is finally time to enjoy one’s self and forget about everything that must be done. Lately, however, I’ve been looking at things from a different perspective.

     More and more, I’ve found myself enjoying the comforts of the morning. As Hemingway once famously wrote The Sun Also Rises. As I sit here writing this now, the sun’s warm rays are stretching out from across millions of miles and caressing my wanting skin. Whilst the scent of fresh brewed coffee wafts up into my nostrils. Yes, it is a good morning and a new day. A new beginning if you will.

     My poem “Life Continues—Unconquered” is about just that. It’s about waking to a new day and embracing it. Embracing everything that the morning has to offer and leaving the world of dreams behind even if your body moans a little.

     It’s also about overcoming adversity. We all wake up in an imperfect world, but we continue with our lives anyway. Not everyday is easy. In fact, many aren’t. Life, though, isn’t about giving up. It’s about putting one foot in front of the other and traversing each day as it comes to you.

     Indeed, the unconquered life is one in which you never stop moving forward. As the sun continues to rise in the east and set in the west, we continue to march on with our lives. From the long ago days of the ancients all the way into the unknown future: life continues—unconquered.

silhouette of a man during sunset

Finding Inspiration

Photo by Elizabeth McCullough

Photo by Elizabeth McCullough

        A single leaf dangling from a high branch, an interesting conversation, a good book, a decent film, a fun trip—indeed inspiration comes in many forms.  In many ways, it is all around us.  With inspiration so bountiful in the world, the challenge becomes finding focus.  How do you tune everything out, and focus on just one idea?  My answer: you don’t.

        In the Digital Age, information overkill is a fact of life.  Instead of tuning everything out to focus on one idea, I grab a life jacket and soak it all in.  After that, I wait.  If something is worth spending the time to focus on, it will usually find its way back into my consciousness.

        I suppose my technique isn’t exactly foolproof.  Occasionally, inspirational thoughts pop up at very inopportune times.  Other times, the inspirational well just dries up all together and I find it difficult to write anything at all.  Then one day, inspiration explodes out of me like a volcano and I don’t have enough time to write all of the words down.

        Hemingway may have been on to something with his 400 to 600 words per day approach.  Then again, Hemingway never had to navigate the Digital Age.  In the end, I’m content to wear my life jacket and bob up and down amongst the waves.  The more that I get used to the motion of the ocean, the more that I am able to anticipate and prepare for the next big wave.

        Well, that’s how I find inspiration.  How about you?

 

Lost Influence No. 3: The Americans

   Do you like American literature?  I like American literature.  Don’t you like American literature baby?  Ok, I think you get the idea….  The Violent Femmes can have their song back now.  I suppose they’ll want to change the words back too.  I do like American literature, though.  That’s why the Americans have garnered a spot in my lost influences.  When it comes to American literature, three of my favorite authors are Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Edgar Allan Poe.  Given that my favorite metaphor for writing is entering the dark cave in my mind, I suppose it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that my lost influences involve two writers who included caves in their writing, and one who wrote about dark themes.  From a dark cave along the mighty Mississippi (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer), to a cave tucked away in a Spanish pine forest (For Whom the Bell Tolls), to the dark themes of stories like the “Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” all three authors touched upon some of my favorite topics.

   I like Mark Twain.  He was witty, funny, and like me he didn’t like romanticism very much.  Twain was a realist.  He didn’t believe in noble causes, or looking at the past through romantic lenses.  Many of his most notable works convey this message.  After all, why were the Dark Ages dark, anyway?  I believe there is a Connecticut Yankee who can tell you about that.  In the end, though, I believe Twain was both correct and incorrect at the same time.  No, the past was not romantic.  Instead it was filthy, despicable, and full of ignorance.  Of course, so is the present, and most likely the future will be too.  That’s life, and what is more real than life?  Like most things, a little romanticism won’t hurt you; it’s when it’s overdone that it becomes a problem.  Then, I suppose you knew that….

   When it comes to Hemingway, I really, really like his vivid imagery and details.  His stories feel as though they were first person accounts.  Of course, given Hemingway’s fascinating life, his stories may have been just that.  Perhaps, in a way, he was Robert Jordan and Frederic Henry, and all the other protagonists he wrote about.  Still, though, his ability to describe a setting down to the very last detail is more than what you usually find in, well, most anything that you may happen to read.  The main lesson that can be taken away from Hemingway is write about what you know, and do it in precise detail.

   Then there is Poe.  There’s just something about exploring the dark side of life that is intriguing.  Poe certainly did that.  For whatever reason, I’ve never been able to get the evil “vulture-like” eye of the old man in “The Tell-Tale Heart” out of my mind.  Nor, the imaginary beating heart.  Poe doesn’t overdo his stories with gratuitous violence that in the end becomes a caricature of the things that we fear, as do many modern day horror writers.  No, Poe was much more sinister than that.  Instead, he explored the psychological aspect of darkness.  What is more fascinating, and terrifying, than that?

   So it is, that the first three chairs around the table that represents my lost influences have been filled.  Six chairs still sit empty.  Next month, I’ll fill three more chairs.  After that, well, we’ll see how it goes….  For now, I suppose we should leave it up to the Violent Femmes to take it away….