Thursday, August 30, 2018

August 2018 Challenge - What Would You Save?

The challenge this month was to write a poem about what you would try to save if you had to flee your home. The poems reflected different angles from wanting to save irreplaceable photos (or taking recollections in lieu of photos) and members of an extended family gathering together and packing up a vehicle to flee (on an over-crowded highway), to more philosophical and theological approaches: saving what heals, in one poem; saving up treasures in heaven, in another.

The judge, Karen Paul Holmes, selected this poem by Elaine Sorrentino:

Unwelcome Estate Sale

My lids are drawn, my brain in REM.
In unsettling slumber I dream of bargain hunters
scavenging my home, as if in ruins before ruined,

fingering my grandmother’s bone china tea cups,
scrutinizing the yellow corn-shaped Belleek vase--
a gift from my departed mother-in-law--

questioning whether the vintage turntable, receiver
and oversized speakers still perform in tandem.
What are you asking for these treasures?

Stunned, I am unable to reply,
then insist the interlopers leave our beachfront
home, still intact, yet on forecasters’ death row list,

a second, deadlier No Name assault on its way,
predicted to devastate this time, not merely
deposit salty, gritty sediment, broken bits

of crab shells, untethered bait lines in our basement
as it did years ago. This one could yank
our Scituate home off its pseudo-solid foundation.

You cannot save everything, there’s too little time,
they announce, rubbing their hands together,
moving on to rummage through other rooms.

My heart instructs me to set boundaries.
Teddy Ruxpin and Puppy McPupster clutched
to my chest, I acquiesce: Ten dollars for the stereo.
Do not touch my children’s things.

~ Elaine Sorrentino

Elaine Sorrentino owns copyright on this poem.

The judge said, “I love all the detail and the horrible dream of people taking your things.” I agree. I also like how the mothering instinct takes over and the speaker says an internal, “Oh, well,” about losing her own belongings, but isn’t so ready to give up what belongs to her children.

The poem reminded me of what happened to Japanese families on the West Coast during World War II. When they were rounded up and taken to internment camps, they had little time to decide what to do with their property, and were not allowed to take much with them.

While the circumstances under which individuals and families have to flee natural or human-created disasters vary, the pain is always there. And often someone else takes advantage of the ones who have to flee.

Elaine Sorrentino is the Communications Director at South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, MA, where she creates promotional and first-person content for press and for a blog called SSC Musings. Her poetry has been published in Minerva Rising, won honorable mention in the June 2018 Wilda Morris poetry challenge, and her non-fiction piece, titled “It’s All About Attitude,” took grand prize in the Write a DearReader Contest at reader advisory blog, 

Karen Paul Holmes has two full-length poetry collections, No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin Books, 2018) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014). She was chosen as a Best Emerging Poet in 2016 by Stay Thirsty Media. Publications include Prairie Schooner, Valparaiso Review, Tar River Poetry, Poet Lore, and other journals and anthologies. Holmes hosts The Side Door Poets in Atlanta and Writers’ Night Out in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

© Wilda Morris