Lessons Learned

He taught me, with great
patience, to make bearnaise,
how to crack the eggs on a flat surface,
never an edge,
that you must temper them
slowly with the butter while
blending in tarragon,
or the sauce would curdle
and break.

You learn self-reliance
when you ignore his warnings,
caught in the draft of the current ,
praying for a spare breath
in your aching chest
as you struggle for the shore,
knowing no one is coming
for you.

Ingenuity is required, knowing
it is necessary to refrain from
making any trace of sound,
skillful silence using a string
to latch a door, rather than
letting it close.

A distinction is mastered
between submissive and defiant
when you know the strike is
coming, one will spare the racket,
bringing far less bruising
than the fist.

Paula Modersohn-Becker Hockender Mädchenakt

Written for the Sunday Whirl wordle (posting tomorrow) . Not really happy with where this went, but sometimes we just follow where the words lead.

Sharing at dVerse.


Filed under Poetry, Poetry - Prompts

34 responses to “Lessons Learned

  1. I didn’t mean to read the wordle poems before I’d written my own. This one is so good, so well disguised, that I’m really glad I did!

  2. Awww…poor boy. Love and hate are so close together.
    Very vivid, very sad for the child.

  3. you are a wonderful writer…..my efforts feel somewhat diminished by your word(le) prowess…..

  4. This is strong, sad, and important. The picture is perfect. The truth in that last stanza is haunting. It is amazing how people adapt to circumstance. I love this piece, Mark.

  5. I very much like what you are doing with structure. I enjoyed seeing how the poem works, how you built it [all of it deliberate, of course], as I read.

  6. TheOthers1

    Oh man, that last stanza was just gut wrenching. It started out almost like a tale of the good things your learn from a dad and ended (with that picture) as something wholly different. NIce.

  7. Wonderfully real and horribly accurate. So much you said here and with such care and wisdom. We all learn in whatever the circumstances, then most spend the rest of life learning otherwise. The drawing is also done with sensitivity and fits the poem uniquely. Thank you,


  8. Yes, sometimes you just follow where the words lead! Wordle words are often good leaders. I do agree we learn self-reliance from ignoring warnings. We then find find our own way, forge our own way and find that you CAN survive!

  9. Oh, wow, Mark! I love, love the first stanza, such wonderful, specific imagery. Quite a metaphor for the rest of the poem. If I didn’t know about the Wordle list, I would never have guessed, this is so seamless. Nice poem.

  10. We are taught so many things at the hands of our caretakers. I like the contrast of the measured learning of making something to eat, and the unspoken learning of how to cope with abuse. Heartrending.

  11. Holy moly….lessons, indeed. Great imagery in your words and effective use of your structure and progression of lessons! Well done!!

  12. That shift, at “Ingenuity is required” is remarkable. The poem went where I didn’t think it was going. It’s very good, even if it was difficult to write – or didn’t quite go where you thought it might. And I’ll repeat what others have said, that last stanza, the distinction between submissive and defiant, very powerful.


  13. honestly..brought tears to my eyes…the first stanza is genius..and becomes even more valuable in the light of the rest of the poem

  14. you made me cry man…made me think of all the kids i work with…the ones that dance that edge between love and anger…agree with claudia as well on how the first stanza plays against the rest…

  15. The progressions here are intriguing. The second stanza was difficult for me to explicate. Was the child thrown in to learn how to swim, or abandoned to make it to shore along, or merely running away and being out of his depth and experience. As in any good poem there is a level of ambiguity and I suppose that is it in this one. The first and last stanzas stand against the second in stark relief – telling the breadth of the tale. Well done.

  16. hedgewitch

    There’s a great sense of loss in this Mark, of pain as well. Wherever the words led you, they had something to say.

  17. Sometimes a poem just leads us where it wants to. I think we have to welcome those as gifts. This is so sorrowful, but filled with truth. As a poem, quite beautiful. As a reality, heartbreaking.

  18. I can definitely relate to this one, Mark. Excellent handling of a tough subject.

  19. Haunting and heartbreaking…sadness fills my heart.

  20. Surviving this – as a child, and again in a former life as an abused spouse this poem really came so close to triggering. It didn’t but wow you wrote something so darkly powerful here. The first stanza is the sweetness of those tiny moments cherished, and then the rest of it hits you. Sometimes a lot.

  21. I love that your use of words make me feel angry at this, great writing!

  22. I have had moments like that too, where the words lead, and I just follow along.

  23. I love the detail in this – the eggs, the tarragon, the string. Last stanza made me gulp a little. Gosh.

  24. Astounding, the contrasts captured here. The first stanza grabbed me and by the end, I tasted tears.

  25. Wow, Mark. This is a strong write and the twist it took, although dark, I guess, adds a lot of character to the poem, adding realism and, to a certain extent, balance. The muse knew where to lead you.

  26. You have taken this from a moment shared with love and regressed to a moment lived in fear. A scary thing to live in fear of the ones that are supposed to love and protect us. I agree, sometimes you must go where the words lead, revelations come where you least expect them to. Well penned, Mark.

  27. Beautiful–tragic, but solid writing. Glad you followed the words! Very strong!!!

  28. Mark, another solid poem. Your illustration mirrors the frustration you had with the poem itself, did you notice? More defined at the top, scattered at the bottom. Ironic, no? This was not only an effective use of the Wordle, but, having just completed mine, I DID NOT NOTICE that yours was the same prompt. That’s very, very good writing. Peace, Amy

  29. Well, although your writing has a mind of its own, it’s wonderful. Sometimes, we go to unsuspected places, when we just follow the flow. This turned out lovely.

  30. Words often do take us by the hand into terrible places, often places we wish did not exist. The contrast between the beginning and the end is quite stark, quite effective in doing that.

  31. your particular choice of words Mark made me feel quite emotive – and protective towards the child – seemed to be caught in a confusing web of not knowing or understanding and pain – great writing does this – jerking a reaction and this did it – feel it now – Lib

  32. Oh absolutely!
    My first save of the day.
    Self assured poetry, delightful words, concrete focus, fabulous movement from THAT thing outside, to THIS, inside. Super.
    And good picture too. Very good.

Some of what I write is true, some is fiction; most is merely possibility.

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