Poetry exercise: Tracing

The assignment last week in poetry class was to trace a poem someone else had written: swap the author’s words with my own, adhering as closely as possible to the original elements (parts of speech and inflection, sentence/line/stanza structure, punctuation, etc.) I immediately dubbed this exercise MadLib poetry, and I had enormous fun with it. I slavishly traced Elizabeth Bishop’s “Little Exercise” (click here for her poem) with the following result.

Trace imagery

Think of the dog pacing the yard methodically
like a home inspector checking for radon,
feel it calculating.

Think how they must sound now, the piano keys
waiting there untouched by fingers
in the sun-soaked parlor,

where every Sunday a woman brings fresh flowers,
arranges them, clucks under her breath
when the petals drop.

Think of the hallway and the cabbage roses
arrayed on the wallpaper, slowly fading
into the neutral background.

It is empty there. The hallway
and its long Oriental rug with the fringe on each end
are waiting to be walked, the doors to be opened.

Now the dog comes in after a final sweep
of the irregular, fenced perimeter,
each section marked with urine.

Think of nobody coming to the house
abandoned at the end of the sidewalk or the lane;
think of no one as invited, widely welcomed.

 

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