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“Listening for the Milestones” is a reworked poem, both in syntax and mood. When I wrote it in 2011, though you couldn’t have told me at the time, I was waging internal war against the craft and by extension, its practitioners. All these rules! What are they? I hate rules! What does free verse mean, anyway?!  The edge is still there, I hope, but with a little less tantrum.

Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Reserve, Belize

I nearly threw you out last night
nearly gave up, so tired am I
of the voice with no voice
the endless siren whining
of a world not fashioned
to your liking.

What I’m learning though
is to listen for the milestones,
the cool shaded flints of wisdom
balanced and shaped enough
to stand on. They have been
so rare in recent months,
I’m learning giant steps.

It’s the friction of fiction,
keeping track of the difference
between you and not-you.
I warned you at the start:
she has to fall in love with he;
It’s the rule of non-tragedy.
Meanwhile, we worked
so hard at being ordinary
and succeeded so well,
I have to make you up again.

I reached the bit finally
where he writes her a poem
and I did pretty good, mimicking
your voice; she’s confused like I was,
all those layers in a superficial package.

The question now is her.
Are her layers mine?
Do her irritations and stupidities
sting like I can?
Yes and not-yes..
She is a musing composite
or will be when the muses find her
sufficiently amusing.

Those Greeks have been dragging
me through strange lands of late:
poetry of all things
where you and others
make their home, but lately
I have felt captive with my
frozen prose, needing to get out.

You sensed it, of course, as you
eventually do, and introduced me
to Quiroga on a thousand mile stone
where you showed me the way
home with a machete.


© Elaine Stirling, 2011