I thought I had already written a poem called “Inheritance”, but apparently not. This is for Donna‘s prompt to write about one of the seven deadly sins as it relates to relative, and/or something inherited from a relative. (I didn’t get very inventive with the title.) It’s a pretty straightforward post-immigrant experience, I think, to have the narrative of “I came here with nothing so I could give my children a better life.” (And for more recent generations, the narrative is still going.) That’s the American rags-to-riches thing, anyway, I guess. But I think there is a “good” kind of greed: when you have nothing, and you want to give your children more than you have, you try to take in as much as you can. I don’t have kids, though, so maybe I’m fooling myself. :)
Khara House‘s challenge is still going, too. I’m working my way around the alphabet… so far I’ve submitted to journals starting with B, C, E, F, J, K, Q, U, V, W, X, Y, Z. I figure those are the tough letters; now I’ll move on to the more common ones. Here are a few important lessons that have come out of the experience at the halfway point:
- You always have more poems than you think you do lying around.
- Paradoxically, you never have as many as you think you do, because once you start reading them, you say, “I could never submit this anywhere.” But that really gets you into a good editor mode; there are several that I gutted and re-built over the course of this challenge.
- Simultaneous submissions are great, but exercise caution. The rule of thumb I’ve been using is, one poem should never be submitted to more than two journals, and no journal should have more than one poem being submitted elsewhere. What if you send the same five poems to five journals (thinking they’ll each take one), and they all only want the same one? S.O.L., that’s what.
- Putting together a submission takes roughly twice as long as it took to write the stuff. Ugh.
- In browsing a journal to get a sense of what they want, you read and discover some truly great poets. You also find some truly awful ones, who you can’t figure out how they got published. And you notice some names popping up again and again; I won’t say who. They know who they are. (Have they appeared in Curio? Just maybe!)
Our great-grandparents went from nothing
to nothing. We have tattered photographs
smelling like an endless sea, from which
they refuse to blink. They tucked
whole histories into their apron pockets,
hefted the weight of a thousand people
on desperate shoulders. Nothing is stronger
than want– except for the desire
to give. Our great-grandparents already had
crow’s feet in their teenage faces, spelling out
children’s names. What can’t be bought or
sold becomes priceless. Now
we bear the same squint; we look, and
we say, I will take this and give it away.
Our photographs will not smell of salt,
but of forests, slowly, slowly built.