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The Café Philos Poetry Prompt For Them That Be Wild Things (March 31, 2019)

In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him
‘Til he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains.
— Paul Simon, The Boxer.
(About a 5 minute read)


Defiance.  I cannot think of defiance without thinking of The Boxer — and without, almost in the same breath, thinking of my mother.

My mother was 11 years old at the start of the Great Depression.  She was 21 at the end of the Depression, but then the War broke out.  By the time the young, available men began returning in 1945, mom was 27 and — surprising as this might be to some of today’s readers — she was by then considered too old to be marriageable.As every historian knows, depressions and large-scale wars at the very least postpone many marriages.  At 27, my mother resigned herself to what was then called, “spinsterhood.”

She met my father by sheer accident.

Her sister had some photos waiting for her at a studio, but was busy that day.  Could mom pick them up? The photographer was to become my father.

As some readers already know, he died young about ten years later. I once asked mom if people could be truly happy for long periods in their lives.

“I have only once in my life been happy for a sustained period.  That lasted ten years. Longer than most people have, I think.”  I asked her, “Which ten years?”

“It doesn’t matter now”, she replied, perhaps to protect me from feeling too poignantly her loss. The self-effacing maternal instinct at work.

Mom sold everything she could, including her home, then paid off the medical debt from dad’s lingering, but fatal cancer.  She had left over “just about enough to bury him.”

The oldest of her three sons was four at the time.  She was unemployed, living in an apartment that her sister’s husband paid the rent on.  It was 1958, and women did not have many prospects for decent well paying jobs.

Of course, I most likely wouldn’t be here to tell her story had she given up.

Defiance. It is curious how many of us come relatively late in life to the full realization of how unpredictable and unfair life can be.  Maybe that’s because we seem to need the illusion that we are immune to “outrageous fortune” in order to avoid spending our days waffling like Hamlet between life and suicide.

Whatever the case, most of us sooner or later realize life all too frequently presents us with no real choice but to simply stand and defy the fates.

Complaining — whether justified or not — doesn’t change a thing.  Stand or die.  Literally, stand or die.  Curious how long it can take many of us to fully understand and accept that fact as a normal part of even the happiest lives.

Today’s prompt is to write a poem on defiance.

The poem need not include the word “defiance”, but defiance should be its core and central theme.  Consider, too, that the poem can be on any kind of defiance.   The defiance of a rabbit facing an eagle.  The defiance of a stone resisting water.  The defiance of water regarding the stone. And so forth.  The possibilities are nearly endless.

(1) Your poem can be any length, and in any poetic form — including a prose poem.

(2) Please post it on your blog by 11:59 PM, Sunday, the 7th of  April at the latest.

(3) If you will so kind, include a link back to this post.

(4) If you will be even kinder, please reblog this post.

(5) Then happily grab your favorite beverage, lay back, relax, and expect soon enough a visitor bearing precious gifts of lavish, but sincere, gratitude (that would be me).

Last, special thanks to Paul over at Parallax for his kind encouragement.

The Boxer, by Paul Simon (Alison Krauss cover).

39 thoughts on “The Café Philos Poetry Prompt For Them That Be Wild Things (March 31, 2019)”

  1. Your mother is a strong woman and your telling of her story was inspiring, Paul. I am very sorry for the loss of your father, as well. I agree that complaining about our woes in life solves nothing. I always say that life throws some pretty hard punches, but we must stay in the ring if we want to grow and become stronger. We live and we learn. Thank you so much for sharing this heartfelt and inspiring story. Really was touched by this.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It still feels strange to me to talk about my mother’s more remarkable traits, Manessah. She herself would tell me to hush if she were alive to overhear me. She could actually get quite upset at being praised — and that wasn’t her only flaw. But as I’ve gotten older, and as I have been able to put her into better perspective, I have become ever increasingly in awe of her. I got lucky. Maybe mom was the luckiest card I’ve ever drawn in life.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This is so sweet to hear how much respect and admiration… love… you have for your mother and I think it’s beautiful that you honor her memory by sharing what made her so amazing in your eyes. I love how you said your mom was maybe the luckiest card you’ve ever drawn in life. That is so heartfelt and I’m sure she would be smiling if she were around to hear you say that.


  2. I’ve been sitting here, staring at the comment box for several minutes. There are so many things I could say, but they all sound trite. This post has given me a clearer picture of your mother. The more I learn, the more I admire her.

    It’s also reminded me – as if I needed reminding – that we are getting old. My mother was born in 1916. I remember her speaking of events that had occurred twenty years ago. Twenty years seemed like an impossible length of time to a child of nine, but that was 45 years ago.

    I’ll try to come up with a response to this challenge, but no promises.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Your mother remained resilient for the sake of her children when perhaps she would have rather lay down and let herself be taken away. And look what wonderful son, at least one, has given tribute to her success and endurance. I think she may be been right – we are lucky to be able to count on ten good years. But I’ll throw in my sons – that adds 43 and 39 years. I’m very fortunate.

    Not sure I’ll take you up on the prompt – I’m too rebellious.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “Whatever the case, most of us sooner or later realize life all too frequently presents us with no real choice but to simply stand and defy the fates.” Indeed, Paul. Wise thoughts and captivating narratives. Thank you for the prompt. I have written a poem and will now post it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Although the poem has nothing much to do with defiance in a positive way, it seems to speak about defiance gone wrong — when we defy something we should not defy. I like it. Especially the ending.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. No comment section on your page, Sha’Tara, so I will comment here. Brilliant!! I felt your power in every word, in every metaphor and image those words evoked. I knew your defiance as my own, and felt it flowing between us, each strengthening the other until it felt we could destry the whole world with merely a passing thought… I still feel my heart pounding, long moments after finishing the reading…

      A powerful poem in so many ways, and empowering as well. Thank you!! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for commenting, Lisa. That disappeared comment prompt is quite annoying but I found two possible ways to comment anyways. One, use the “Comment” prompt on the received email. Two, click on the “Like” button and then click on the below comment that appears and asks, “Comment on this post?”

        Liked by 1 person

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