Tuesday, December 7, 2010

No Words


Blank Page,
     white and bare
          as winter.

Scant Words,
     black birds
          on crusted snow.

Poor Hearts
     beat wings
          in bony cages.

No Song
   to measure
          what the heart can hold.

I owe much of this poem to Zelda Fitzgerald, who said, "No one, not even a poet, can measure how much the heart can hold."  Pairing her quotation with the pictured quote from a Victorian poet might seem strange, but it makes perfect sense to me in light of the poem's subject. Thank you both, fair ladies.


  1. This is an amazing poem...inspired.

  2. Wonderful little piece. Spare and lovely, like winter.

  3. Don't presume to fret because it's little.

  4. This is very lovely, especially the rib cages, beautiful.

  5. The breadth and depth of the heart is the one thing we are fools to try to measure. We come up short every time, best just leave some things a mystery.

  6. Browning's quote reminds me to relax, to let the flow of who I am come out and not judge myself for it not being more than it is. The metaphors of your poem are lovely, especially along with the birds in the left column.

  7. Oh, what a lot to ponder on a frozen, still, December night. Both the quotes and an ostensibly simple, deceptively complex poem. That contrast between the two last verses...

  8. Gabriella - Thank you, dear WV friend!

    Tess - Thank you. How I envy you your name. I would be a Tess!

    Chris - I tell myself; I tell myself.

    Niamh - Thank you!

    TWM - Futile and foolish to even try, yet the impetus for so much of what we write. (Hence, the ever morose poet?)

    TFE - Thank you!

    Shakespeare - I guess I'm birding lately! I keep telling myself the E.B.B. quote. If I say it frequently enough, maybe I'll start to internalize it.

    Titus - Thank you. Only a poet can know how long one can spend on so few lines. I know this one isn't final form. I'm wrestling with the language of the last stanza. I want to whittle it some, but I haven't figured it out yet.

  9. you painted a nice picture here. quite straight to the point, yet poetic.

  10. Sorry for my long absence...life, you know. Your last three poems posted here are really wonderful, Karen. The dark commute is vivid and so true, Sing With Me, made me miss my summer birds, and No Words is infused with originality. I love the form and art of brevity it possess. You say volumes in so few words. Zelda and Elizabeth - inspiring!

    All three poems show your capacity for unflinching poetic vision. Your work is complex but very accessible. Just great!

  11. Hi, Karen. I love your poem and how you add the quote within it. The first thing that popped into my head was that less really is more. The poem has few words but says so many things.

    Your form is lovely, too. It carries my "reader's eyes" along...but it's not too fast. It's just the right pacing for your theme. I love "Scant Words,/ black birds /on crusted snow." It's beautiful and lonely at the same time.

    I love how the first two stanzas have concrete images, and then you softly move us to the more figurative and broader ideas in the last two stanzas. "Bony cages" is fantastic!

    The Browning quote is great, too. As for writer's block, I've never had it, so I can't relate to that. I write tons of crud, but I've never been at a loss for crud to say...haha! But I can relate to your poem and the feeling of not having the right words.

    Zelda Fitzgerald is so right. There's no way we can even come close to measuring (or producing) what the heart holds. If we're lucky and work hard enough, we can only illuminate pieces of the humanity.

    Well, speaking of words, once again, this is way too many words for a comment. You get me thinking, which is good! Thanks for another beautiful piece, Karen. Have a great weekend.

  12. That's an interesting concept...not knowing the heart's capacity or measure. I suppose that we can always surprise ourselves.