I Can’t Publish a Poem Until I Know What It’s About

Merriam-Webster has let me down. They say that an accomplished life is one of “proficiency, skillfully honed, polished, and refined, with notable established social accomplishments beyond dispute”. I’ve read about people who have led such a life, because I would like to do that too before I go, but I need to know how.

While standing in line at Lowes to return twenty feet of corrugated drain pipe, I feel as though I’m suspended in a dream-of-consciousness. Narratives come to mind about the person ahead of me who has a prominent gash on the back of his bald head. The story of the scar I think, must be central to the description of how his life could have earned the distinction of being accomplished.

In early grade school, while kneeling during the Stations of the Cross, it occurred to me that the road to an accomplished life must have to be quite painful. The unpadded kneeler was my primary touchstone for that conclusion. It was a relief in a way, that the measurable pain I’d had so far wouldn’t qualify as significant. Other attributes to shoot for though, included being proficient, polished, and refined.

This idea presents a personal quandary. It’s about the people I have loved who have long ago accomplished their lives, but have not met the M-W criteria; their lives accomplished mostly through presence, generosity and kindness.


NB: This piece is dedicated to my families both then and now, including the Adrian Dominican Community of Sisters.

Jean Cassidy     December 2022

wnc poetry, women writers

Comments (2)

  • I enjoyed reading about the role that an unpadded kneeler played in your budding spiritual awareness. And of course also the contrast between the dictionary definition and your experience of the accomplished people in your life: presence, generosity and kindness. Amen to that.

    PS: I know I’m going to keep reading as soon as I read about the 20 feet of corrugated drain pipe!

    • Holly, I look forward to your comments…I know you and I share some oddness, and thus, understand each other I think…yes, the corrugated drain pipe was essential.
      Best wishes always for this coming year and all to follow. J

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