Day 5 prompt from the Poetry Superhighway challenge is a fear-based prompt. My poem is titled Segue, as it segues from childhood to adulthood and from dreams to daily worries.
- Make a list of your childhood fears. If you are feeling really brave, try to come up with one fear for every year of life until you turned age 18. If you can’t recall what you were afraid of when you were very young, try to imagine what might have frightened a typical infant, toddler, or young child in your family back when you were a kid. What images plagued your nightmares, and what scary thoughts ran rampant through your mind on sleepless nights?
- Turn this list into an image driven dream where you come face-to-face with each of these frightening images. Describe them with as much poetic detail as you can. They may each be only a brief presence in the dream returned to try to scare you again, or perhaps they will try to explain to you why you shouldn’t have ever feared them. Perhaps these “fears” were each trying to teach you something. One fear may take over the whole dream and become an extended metaphor or spokesperson for the rest of the fears. Follow the poem wherever it takes you. Even if it’s down a dark tunnel filled with lions and spiders. Have fun with it!
- Try to end your piece with the most comforting image you can imagine. Perhaps something that comforts you now.
- For even more frightening fun and perhaps a deeper analysis of your work and your psyche: circle words and images that stand out to you as powerful or meaningful (10 to 15 is plenty, but feel free to look up as many as you like. If you write a lot of poetry, some of these images may already be familiar themes in your work)
- Look each of these images up on a dream interpretation/analysis website and write a second poem which “psychoanalyzes” the writer based on the images in the dream.
When I was 9, I dreamed the Creature from the Black Lagoon
lived our backyard swamp, legacy from winter’s skating rink melting
At night the creature tapped on my window
Monsters might chase me in dreams where I can’t run, my feet
stuck in the mud, or working only in slow motion
I still dream my teeth are crumbling, I chew
dental fragments in my sleep
In other dreams I run down streets, lost, no keys
I look down. I am naked. It might be snowing
It might be raining, or even summer. Still I am naked
Daylight fears are different. The regular mundanities:
Girls travelled in threes, but when two of us quarrelled, one
would be outside the circle and walk alone. I feared being the third girl.
I was afraid of baggy-knee jeans. Always wanted tight pants.
Before spandex, there was lycra. But the knees were still wrinkly.
I fight my fear of spiders with the vacuum cleaner.
I am afraid to use the telephone because I fear rejection.
I love red tulips and coral-coloured roses. I have no flowers at home.
I am afraid because my cat eats anything green. He spits up later.
One afternoon in the back field a cat running, a potato chip bag
over its head. Backwards, mostly. I scared it into losing one life.
I fear pain, mine, yours, theirs, that cat’s.
My first bank account, I took out two dollars each day. Didn’t know
how to ration. Afraid to run out of things. I still stock up at 3 for 1 sales.
I’d rather eat white bread. When I was a child,
my mother would cut off all the crusts. Not fear. Just loathing.
I fear illness, dependency, the way my body ages.
Not death. I won’t know, I will be dead.
My greatest fear is fear.
Carol A Stephen
April 5, 2015