I received the nicest email today, from a friend Catherine in my online poetry class. It’s amazing how you can feel connected with someone you’ve never even met. I’d initially been reluctant to take an online class since all of my in-person classes have been so amazing, but I have to say that it was a wonderful experience. The class started out with around eight students and dwindled down to just four of us. We shared our poems, critiqued each other’s work, and offered lots of support and encouragement. The timeline was pretty hectic (one poem per week, and a final portfiolio at the end), but it was actually just what I needed to get my creative juices flowing. The course was taught by George Murray, a published poet and a very thoughtful, supportive teacher.

As we were wrapping up the course, Catherine posted something about a poem of mine, ‘A Mind of Their Own’, which she had said reminded her of a herd of cattle (haha!). The poem is about meditation and how thoughts run wild in our heads, and I guess when she read it, she pictured cows storming in. She said she harboured a big secret – that she had re-written the poem, using cows instead of thoughts. So cool!

You know, I was thinking, after the thoughts about my cat poem and the little old ladies… well, this may sound crazy, but when you say they come in, not one by one but all at once… I imagined a herd of cattle. Don’t laugh! If you read it again imagining cattle, it kinda works, don’t you think?

That’s what I love about poetry, and creative writing in general – it sparks new ways of thinking and sometimes the person reading it imagines something totally different than the writer. Every art form is actually a two-way process; it exists as an interaction between the creator and the consumer. And between the two, there is magic.

Here are the two versions of the poem – mine and then hers:

A Mind of Their Own

They come uninvited;
Not one by one, but
All at once, each with its own
agenda, shouting
Over each other.
That one over there
Looks new,
But unafraid

he has something to say.
Some are urgent, frantic,
while others meet under golden lights,
unaware of anyone else.
A few are caught in the past,
and tell stories around bonfires
Over and over

I thought I’d locked the door
But they come in through the back.
“Now focus on the breath,” the instructor says,
“Bring your attention to each
thought, gently touch it –

And then let it go.”
They are startled by the intrusion,
and pause for a moment.
It feels lighter in the room.
I breathe a little easier.
I was never very good at this

Cattle Call

They storm in, unhinged
not one by one, but
all at once, barreling toward
an unknown end –
snorting in the stirred up dirt.
calling over another;
That one there – he looks
unafraid yet bellows in distress.

Others are urgent, frantic –
they jostle toward their fate,
unaware of their collective
doom. A few are caught
in the past – meadows, grass,
lowing in the afternoons,
over and over.

The gate is locked – the herd
still surges – steaming clouds
of panicked breath –
dull roar of hooves in muck.

Dusk settles on the
restless herd – the cattle
call is over and they
all breathe a little easier.

I think her poem works so well with cows! I can just picture the cows storming in, not knowing that their death soon awaits them. As a vegetarian, I have actually thought of this scenario often – how animals often know that they are going to be killed when their friends in the field don’t return.

It’s nice that the four of us from the class have decided to stay in touch. It’s always hard to say goodbye to people when a course comes to an end – thank god for technology!

2 thoughts

  1. “Every art form is actually a two-way process; it exists as an interaction between the creator and the consumer. And between the two, there is magic.”

    I LOVE this. It perfectly captures what art is – an interaction in which each person is speaking entirely different things, yet communing on common ground.

    Both poems are great! :)

    Liked by 1 person

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