I like to approach ways that I write and pieces that I write from different angles. You don’t always get the best perspective straight on. Sometimes the most interesting things happen after you play with the form. My work-in-progress novel, (Three Prayers) began because I couldn’t let go of this picture book manuscript I’d written about a chimney swift falling down my chimney and into my house. The manuscript wouldn’t sell, but the words and images wouldn’t leave my mind. So I let them flow freely, and now I have a novel (that will hopefully be more publishable) that includes the evocative image of the chimney swift.
The poem below was used in a more utilitarian manner. While I was putting together the skit book Skitsophrenia as an editor, I needed to fill a gap. I pulled this poem that had been published years earlier and made it into an artsy skit. Here is my poem as published in Moody Monthy, December of 1986.
Time for another poem. This poem was written as part of a project for my “Women in the Bible” class in seminary. It was later published in the magazine, Daughters of Sarah, in the July/August 1991 issue. This page is copied from the book compilation, The Wisdom of Daughters: Two Decades of the Voice of Christian Feminism. Illustrations by Kari Sandhaas.
COLD AS THE EMPTY SPACE
Still huggable, and yet the time is near
when hugs will be neatly avoided and
a circle of arms reduced to one hand.
That kiss on the hurt place will be rare–fear
a confession not readily made. Year
turns to year and every sad time they stand
by the measuring wall, they’ve grown. Fast sand
pours through the hourglass like water, clear
as the knowledge that all things must change…cold
as the empty space when it happens. Wild
though the days were, these times seem so hushed, when
there’s no one in the hollow house to hold
except the love-starved cat. Until your child
is old enough enough to act the child again.
-Judith L. Roth
The first poem I ever sold to a magazine was a sonnet. I was in college when Pet Parade put out a call for poems about pets, and I answered. Below is the poem the editor chose of mine.
The musty sweet smell of hay is in your
fur, kitty. A hint of where you’ve hidden
your babes. I know strangers are forbidden
to linger near the sun-dappled nest, or
stroke the tiny tender noses before
you allow it, but I’ve watched your children
tussle in the night. Am I forgiven
if I explain that your son has a roar
like a dragonfly, and your daughters grow
more like you every day? Their faces draw
me; I can’t help but climb up to the loft
while you’re away and watch them swaying low
in their walk, or curling up on the straw
to sleep. They are my joy; so clean and soft.
-Judith L. Roth
“Sonnet III” was scheduled to be in the Sept.-Oct. 1981 issue, but I never received a copy. Instead I received a note that Nancy Jeanne Larson, editor and publisher, died tragically in an automobile accident. The note was sent by her surviving husband. The lost opportunity of being published was of course slight in comparison.