Woe Life by Lark Owl Tern

Woe Life

This I dreamed, that a child had wandered lonely,
and singly I found her, nearing the ghastly edge
of a snow-covered cliff. Briskly I gained,
but something askew drew the heed from my heading—
a short-lived diversion that proved disastrous
as slickly she slipped! and swept down the sloped shelf,
scarcely marring the glittery, hard-packed snow.
I lunged, narrowly grasping the guiltless, out-cast
glove, its pink pull of yarn being apparent;
and its bold tone, like her warm hand-me-downs,
marked sharp conflict with barren, bone-pale ice—
spelling the oddity of this ​dreadful scene.
With a free hand, I wildly fished for a hold—
an anchor, drowning beneath the frigid shroud—
but failed to make the crucial catch, in that dark
unbroken forest of mocking evergreen pines,
which reached only toward heaven while I was denied.
Yet, time flashed and then froze, like Spring in Winter;
I foresaw a happening, sensing a rush and roar
even before an event took place, a moment
of choices before actions: I’d reach for her,
both arms, and wrap myself around her tight—
my heart then part of more than my sole self—
then I’d absorb the impact on the lush,
vibrant, sun-drenched patch of earth, far below,
which I could suddenly see—beyond where I stood.
I awoke, not in horror, but thankful to know
not that I could make choices, but that I would.

by Lark Owl Tern

Editor’s Note: Brilliant use of alliteration and consonance in this poem slip the reader through its dream narrative with ease, until the very last line’s rhyming ‘could’ and ‘would’ land the reader firmly on the speaker’s conclusive relief.

2 thoughts on “Woe Life by Lark Owl Tern

  1. Love the homage to Gerard Manley Hopkins, both in style and in content–the soul’s responsibility in the face of free will, the attention needed to anticipate the trajectory of the “fallen / falling” child. The antiquated vocabulary [“ghastly” “frigid shroud”] and diction [“slickly she slipped”] work brilliantly to serve the author’s purpose.

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  2. I think this is a masterpiece of language. I love the inversions of subjects, objects, and modifiers–“This I dreamed,” “wandered lonely,” “briskly I gained,” and so on. They not only contribute to the meter–which seems to propel us deeper into the dream–but also generate little squirts of dopamine each time we encounter them.

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