The Gestures with Which You Honor It

Jade
The woody stem
	was but four crooked
		inches long, bearing

eight oval leaves like
	blades of oars.
		I found that sprig of jade

on the hallway carpet,
	took it back to my apartment
		and harbored it in a jar of water.

Weeks passed. Roots
	grew. I gave the plant
		a pot of soil

and a spot by a sunny
	south-facing window.
		It would not have mattered

to the world, I think,
	if that little remnant
		of life had dried up

and died. 
	Weeks passed. One morning
		when I awoke

and was planted again
	in a budding day,
		I noticed two new

shiny and smooth
	leaves of jade
		turned about into the sun.

Copyright 2018 by Brian Dean Powers
Photo by the author

Can You Say It in Just Two Lines?

Blake Manuscript
When I first started writing poetry seriously, it took years to learn how to make longer poems with fully developed ideas. Lately I’ve been interested in the opposite challenge: how much can a poet pack into a couplet?

Here are some examples, some of which you will probably recognize. I’m also posting one of my own.

Richard Wilbur included this work in his collection, Mayflies. Although the poem was published in the 21st century, it’s written in rhyming iambic pentameter.

     A Short History

     Corn planted us; tamed cattle made us tame.
     Thence hut and citadel and kingdom came.

This example by Mark Doty is from his book, School of the Arts.

     Shahid’s Couplet

     Your old kitchen, dear, on Bleeker: sugar, dates, black tea.
     Your house, then ours. Anyone’s now. Memory’s furious land.

Walt Whitman put this little poem in the 1871 edition of Leaves of Grass.

     The Untold Want

     The untold want by life and land ne’er granted,
     Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.

This famous poem by Ezra Pound was written in 1912.

     In a Station of the Metro

     The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
     Petals on a wet, black bough.

This tiny poem with the enormous title appears in Mary Oliver’s Redbird.

     Watching a Documentary about Polar Bears Trying to 
     Survive on the Melting Ice Floes

     That God had a plan, I do not doubt.
     But what if His plan was, that we would do better?

This is my first attempt at a two-liner.

     [Broken] [Shine]

     I don’t know who broke my bedroom window.
     Sunlight blazes the long edge of cracked glass.

So what do you think? Do these poems feel satisfying, or do you want more? Is it fair to say this brief form sometimes requires a good title in order to succeed?

[Broken] [Shine] Copyright 2017 by Brian Dean Powers
Public Domain photo at commons.wikimedia.org