Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Story Poems

QUEEN FOR A DAY

You have to have seen the show.
It aired a long time ago.
Three housewives
(back when we called women that)
lined up, breathless.
These Queenly figures
came from scrubbing floors,
not aerobics class.
The winner had the saddest story.
Then the announcement,
the crown,
the ermine-trimmed robe, velvet.
Red, I suppose.
The promenade.
The applause.
Better than the Miss America pageant,
which came later.

Mom coughs.
I snap to.
Let me get you a glass of water.
R: "Oh, you shouldn't do that. I'll get my own."
(She thinks she can still walk.)
But, you are the Queen, I say, and mean it.
R: "Queen of what?"
This household, your domain.
She rises from her upholstered throne.
Got your balance?
Stand tall, like the Queen you are.

If she's the Queen,
that makes me a princess.
But, in real time, I am a crone,
excavating for the tunnel
to become Queen of Myself.
This is it.

Here’s my definition of story-poem. A story poem combines highly compressed narrative, musing, and observation that avails itself of poetic techniques such as alliteration, imagery, and metaphor. In the story-poem, as in prose, the sentence is the primary unit, rather than the line. The same material handled in a personal essay would cover many times the words. I crafted the story poems in Sightlines to be simple and direct to reach heart to heart.

I was with my mother the first springtime after the accident when the crocus she’d planted bloomed. I gathered these blossoms inside to share with my mother, who so loved flowers. I placed them in one of her favorite vases of Francoma-ware (made in Okllahoma) and handed it to her.

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  1. When I talked, played, and sang of “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary” | Riehl Life: Village Wisdom for the 21st Century

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