Poetry Friday: “Purgatory”

I have to thank David L. Harrison for this posting.  Last week in his blog, he posted a new poem (you can read it here) which reminded me of one I had written a few years ago about the same subject.  It got me thinking about how and why we view things the way we do…

A group of one hundred people could all witness the same thing simultaneously – a tree, a sunset, a rock, a catastrophe – and each one would see it, feel it, and remember it differently (I’ve written a number of poems about this concept, actually).  A perfect example of this is to take a classroom of children outside to view something mundane like the lawn or the sky – nothing too exciting or stimulating – then bring them inside and ask them to write down one word that describes what they saw.  You’ll get very different answers because each child views life through their own thoughts, interests, and personalities.  We all do.

That’s what’s so great about poetry!

One person can look at a leaf caught in a spiderweb and think stand-up comedy (like David did) while another can look at the same thing and think death (hence, the title of MY poem).

So here it is; it’s a bit more prosaic than most of my poetry, but I wanted to relate the experience as a story as much as a poem.  There’s a distinct narrative I wanted to get across, and even though I wrote it for adults, I wanted younger readers who may happen upon it to be able to understand the gist of what I was saying.

This was published last autumn in the Licking River Review, and now, a year later, with fall fast approaching, I suppose it’s the perfect time to ‘resurrect’ it.  Hope you like it!  And if you want to see more Poetry Friday posts, you can find the complete roundup at Random Noodling!

Purgatory

On its gentle descent to the grave,
a lone maple leaf
found itself
suddenly suspended,
ensnared
in a spiderweb.

Caught halfway
between life and death
it hung,
contemplating
a tenuous existence.

Not wanting to complete
the journey
downward,
the leaf was satisfied
to accept this fate.

Better,
it thought,
than the alternative –
dirt
and rain
and thick-treaded soles.

But as the days grew shorter
the weeks grew long;
and the leaf
dry and brittle with age
watched
longingly
as friends and family passed.

Unexpectedly
a burst of wind
loosed the grasp of the web;
the leaf
now free to fall,
eagerly
descended in anticipation
and finally
happily
found rest.

– Matt Forrest Esenwine

21 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “Purgatory”

  1. That is so lovely, Matt! You captured beautifully both the sense of contentment at the leaf’s delayed fate and its longing to be with others who had passed. Such an evocative use of personification.

    I thought David’s stand-up comedy poem was veeeery imaginative and clever. What a delight to see a completely different take on the subject.

  2. Matt, I agree with your post. How boring it would be if we didn’t all have different perspectives! It was great to compare the point of view of both David’s and your poem. Might there be a bit of double meaning in “thick-treaded soles?”

    I also think of The Fall of Freddy the Leaf when I read your poem. Maybe the goal is to finally be ready when death does come. A very deep poem, indeed. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Interesting how that little detour changed the leaf’s feelings about his fate…time and perspective. I really enjoyed your poem, Matt. To me it has the feeling of a fable.

    1. Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, Mary Lee; even though it’s probably for the best given the circumstances, it’s still sad when it happens. Thanks for letting me know. I had never thought of that analogy, but I suppose it is apropos.

  4. Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, Mary Lee; even though it’s probably for the best given the circumstances, it’s still sad when it happens. Thanks for letting me know. I had never thought of that analogy, but I suppose it is apropos.

  5. davidlharrison

    Matt, I enjoyed your poem as well as the comments. It has been a good year for leaves so we’ll have enough material to last all winter!

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