Sunday, December 15, 2019

Poetry and Dopamine

Last night I went to Bothell's own monthly poetry Open Mic night, held at our local gallery, Tsuga. I love the event--one of the many things I began doing after becoming a widow. Participating in activities I'd never done before was a way to enjoy myself without associating the activity with Jay, thus making me feel sad. I've written poems and read poetry all my life, but had never been to an Open Mic until late 2014.

Although I enjoy these evenings enormously, I attend only five or six a year because of other events I enjoy also fall on Saturdays. Sometimes I read poems; sometimes I just listen. The evening always begins with the Guest Poet, an invited poet who reads for twenty or twenty-five minutes. Then Open Mic begins, and anyone can sign up to read for up to five minutes. The audience usually averages ten or twelve participants, but last night there were five people present--three poets, me, and one audience member.  (It seems December's Open Mic Poetry night fell on the same evening as an annual wine-tasting event in downtown Bothell, so although lots of people were walking around the neighborhood, most carried wine glasses, showing off their Christmas sweaters or seasonal, silly head wear and were there for anything but poetry.)

I had printed off a few older poems quickly when I realized I could attend last night's event (my Saturday night plans had fallen through) and headed out to the gallery. I didn't anticipate reading, but 'just in case,' I wanted to be ready. When it turned out so few poets showed up (including the Guest Poet), I was glad I had something to read. But I wasn't prepared for the reaction I got to "Falling Gently," a version of which was on my blog in December 2009 as  "Sidewalk Carol."

"Why hasn't that been published?" the Guest Poet asked, then quickly added,"Astonishing that it hasn't been!"

I won't deny it--that comment made my day, maybe even my week. Audible sounds during the my reading had conveyed its resonance to me, but I wasn't ready for such a strong and explicit remark. Weird how a little bit of flattery gets the dopamine flowing. I smiled demurely at the question--immensely flattered--and thought to myself, 'Well, it's been published it on my blog,' Today I decided to publish it again, mainly because it's been slightly revised since I posted it ten years ago.

Spoiler alert: the word "dopamine" in the title of this post is only about how good it feels to hear a compliment--not how you will feel after reading the poem.

FALLING GENTLY . . . a homeless woman sings her carol to the passerby

I see snowflakes falling gently
Each one different and unique.
I hear church bells in my mind
Ringing in the night's mystique.

Once upon a time remembered
A little child was homeless born.
A baby boy without possession,
His swaddling rags inviting scorn.

I see snowflakes falling gently
Each one different and unique.
You treat homeless people badly
Consider us pathetic, weak.

A child today died on this street,
Hundreds more are huddling, cold.
You pay them no attention, withholding
Frankincense and myrrh and gold.

Mary, Joseph, Babe in arms
Bound in love and covenant
Fled to Egypt seeking haven
Left their home--itinerant.

I see snowflakes falling gently
Homeless people, young and old.
Curled up tight on bus-stop seats,
Shivering, frightened, freezing cold.

Merry Christmas to my friends--
The beggars on the street.
We can't close our doors like you
To keep it private, upbeat, sweet.

City homeless, what a shame!
Not your problem, we've no food.
You want Christmas pure and merry
With nothing ugly to intrude.

Could you gift us from your surplus?
Could you share with us your gold
Could you be both hope and harbor?
For us homeless? Hungry, cold!

Bless me, Jesus, Savior, Friend.
Help me, Jesus, Lamb and King.
Grant compassion, help them see
Your presence here in everything.

I see snowflakes falling gently
I hear church bells in my mind.
Remembering the homeless Baby,
Please resolve to be more kind.

Jesus knows not wealth or status.
Through my tears the snowflakes blur.
He was homeless just like we are.
Gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Sara J. Glerum
Copyright (c) 2019

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sara,

I did not originally read this poem here, on your blog. I regret that I didn't hear it at Open Mic night, either. Rather, it was gifted to me by a loyal and adoring fan. I've come here to tell you how much it moved me.

It's true the poem doesn't drip with the dopamine that we're accustomed to this time of year, but it does deliver a more important, meaningful dose - and straight to the heart. Your words and meter, so well curated, are the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

I have difficulty articulating its impact more fully so I'll just say: thank you for the gift of truth, beauty and goodness. I'm no publisher, but it is already a best-seller in my family.