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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 a long line at Lowes to return twenty feet of corrugated drain pipe, I felt as though I was suspended in a dream-of-consciousness. Narratives came to mind about the person ahead of me who had a prominent gash on the back of his bald head. The story of the scar I thought, must be central to the description of how his life would 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 presented a personal quandary. It’s about the people I’d loved who had long ago accomplished their lives, but had not met the M-W criteria; their lives had been 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

Copyright: December 2022

wnc poetry, women writers

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