…or not

by Elizabeth Cunningham

first take the sunlight inside your body and soul

then dip down into the darkness of the waters

add the salt of the earth, take a deep breath: you’re here   

from the middle of the pond I watch the moon wane

each day thinner and thinner, higher and higher

she’s fading into light, revealing her dark face

buzzards high above fly a silent circle song

the cicada’s drone draws out the end of summer

my heart swings wide, wild, child on a carnival ride  

I am old as Olga, adrift in my last days

I am a child, standing on a rock by a lake

I am neither, only the whirl of wind, light, wave 

over and over I witness the round from shoot

to bud to flower to seed or seed within fruit

always a fall, the dying back down to the root  

I look for metaphors, I seek to know my phase

fresh, fading, bearing fruit or rot, Elizabeth,

life will rise again, whether it is yours—or not.

I have been experimenting with the ghazal form since meeting poet JK McDowell and reading his collection Night Mystery Light. My primitive understanding is that the form has lines of 12 syllables, stanzas of three lines which must stand alone as a poem, and six stanzas total. There may be other rules of which I am not aware.

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