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Revolution: a poem

Christina Chase is disabled and enjoys nature in her wheelchair

Trees to climb up

and hills to roll down.

But, not for me.

 

“It’s okay,” I tell my friends at school,

“You can go down and play in the field,”

and I stay up on the asphalt, spinning my wheels,

turning motorized circles

round and round,

only a little surprised that they left me.

Happy enough in my wheelchair, really,

the sun warm on my face,

the sky above, clear blue, quiet…

alone, with no one to bother my thoughts.

I even hum, smiling as I spin,

so no one will come pity play with me.

 

I could have made my life on the in side of doors,

man-made surfaces, smooth and safe,

adaptive equipment, digital displays – easy.

For this, however, I was not made.

My heart was created to explore the natural world,

God’s Wilderness Masterpiece,

the fragile and living, vast and gritty reality.

 

Encasing my limp, irregular body,

the machine I ride is hard.  Precise.

Man’s physical triumph over physical weakness.

But… it cannot wind me up the oak

with grasping fingers and tender feet,

or kneel me on the moss

to lie in grass and buttercups,

or twine my hair with daisies.

No.

My imagination is naturally necessary,

not as escape, but as a tool – a revelation.

 

For it’s wonder that ascends the trees

to radiant light and starry heights

and opens arms in prayer and ecstasy;

And marvel slides down snowy slopes,

as brisk as fear and fresh as hope;

While delight hikes up to lofty peaks;

Between the boulder and the brambles,

a loving mind will find the way.

 

And, so, the lonely, limited girl,

who could only pretend to twirl,

grew into a woman with worse limitations –

save for the gift of spinning golden thoughts,

cresting the mountain while still in the valley,

condensing into drops of rain and effervescing into stars…

loving the whole world behind her eyes.

 

© 2016 Christina Chase


Photo of me copyright 2019 Dan Chase

Christina Chase View All

There once was a cripple…
who wasn't afraid to acknowledge that she was a cripple or to share her life of wonder, struggles, sorrow, and joy with perfect strangers. Here I am.
Join me as I explore the reality of divine love in the flesh, reflecting on what it means to be fully human, fully alive.

16 thoughts on “Revolution: a poem Leave a comment

    • Well thank you, Al. 🙂 When I posted this poem, I was looking forward to your reading it, wondering what you would think. Your approval is making me feel a little bit more like a real poet. (Although I see many places where it needs improvement, perhaps overly critical of my own work? (I don’t think so.) Or perhaps I am merely suffering from the knowledge that nothing is perfect and I must just accept?)

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      • That last sentence. Those three clauses: Yes. No. Yes, but.

        * * *

        I’ll tell you more about how I learned to read poems, and how easy and hard it might be to write one. Later.

        Meantime, read your own trys with your ears and your eyes.

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  1. Hi Christina,

    it’s later and I’ve been reading with my eyes, looking for pictures.

    Your second stanza has good ones. I’m there with the person talking (the “speaker,” not you necessarily; “she”– as created by you, the she who enables us to become you, in the magic of art; at least that’s what they taught me in school)

    so anyway these two lines interrupt the pictures and call attention to the thoughts of the speaker:

    only a little surprised that they left me.
    Happy enough in my wheelchair, really,

    and the commentary breaks the mood created by the pictures. Plus, the phrase “only a little surprised” takes the scene off in a different direction, distracting us by its puzzling ambiguity (I’ll let you think about that one).

    The only other line in that stanza that distracts from the pictures, “so no one will come pity play with me” adds to the puzzle. The first word, “so,” says that the person prefers to be alone because she doesn’t want to be befriended out of charity. That’s understandable, but the previous pictures say that same thing more positively, I think. She understands the complexity of childhood relationships, and accepts it because she also accepts herself and the beauty of her world.

    (Sorry, but I can’t help myself. It’s why I like poems. They are experiences that I can think about as well as experience myself.)

    OK, I’ll stop for now. Just wanted to follow up a bit on what I meant by reading, and writing, with yourr eyes..

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    • Yes, I can “see” what you’re saying! 🙂 (In reference to all of your responses.) I have felt a sense of choppiness in reading this poem, and you’ve given me some understanding why. Writing mostly in prose, I have a tendency to want to explain things thoroughly. (You should see how long the first drafts of some of my blog posts are!) I need to learn that such explanations are not necessary if the “picture” is right, like you said.

      Then, there’s the question of the mood or direction of the poem. I can see how it’s an uplifting poem, happy even, but the first picture of the little girl in the school yard isn’t “happy”. The ambiguity of the line — “only a little surprised” — comes from the little girl’s own mixed emotions. She’s no Pollyanna. (I’m no Pollyanna.) Frankly, I don’t know how another reader would see her or feel as the mood of the poem, so it’s difficult for me. What I know is that I was sad that day, but I made the most of it. Perhaps, however, this isn’t the proper thing to share in this particular poem?

      Perhaps the poem isn’t about making the most out of difficulties, but truly about the power of wonder and marvel and human imagination? Perhaps it’s better to left unsaid what the poem tells about making the most out of difficulties and discovering new strength? I believe that sorrow and sadness are important parts of wonder and imagination, however, and I want a little of that to come through in this poem. Then again, for most readers, perhaps there is enough pathos just in the word “wheelchair” and the picture of the little girl left by her friends? (I hope your able to think about and respond to these questions with whatever thoughts you have, dear Al. I’m loving this!)

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      • OK, now I’m seeing the poem a bit more clearly. I didnt pay enough attention, Christina,  to the tension you intended and built in.

        I believe in the role of pictures, but you are right in balancing those* with your main goal in writing. Abstractions, summary statements, reflections, plaintalk–all can be used effectively when the poem requires.  This one requires. I think I was so taken by the the beauty and power of nature (as experienced both through sight and through imagination) which seemed to me to outweigh any sadness–so wanting there not to be sadness or frustration in your own experience (how on earth could I know that!), that I misread the poem as a kind of “I’m OK as I Am” song, or an “I have overcome” one. Thanks to your explanation I am reading betternow.
        .   .   .   .   .

        And next time I read it  I’ll  about listening for your music  as it enriches the focus of the story without blurring it. Same for the feeling in the poem, or the idea, where there is one.
        .    .    .    .

        Eventually maybe we can talk together about imitating. That’s how I got interested in making poems. It was fun, but also a challenge. I’ll tell you about poems that meant so much to me that I wanted to make something like them. I imagine that has happened to you as well.
        I’ll ask you which poems or poets have changed your life, even just a smidgen.
        .  .  .  .  .  .

        *There are so many pictures in “Revolution” to call back up when I think about the girl who is kept from climbing trees, who misses out on childhood romps, but who recognizes that there is another way to experience nature’s joys, and God’s, without repressing sadness– so many mixed feelings expressed in pictures with a bite; e.g., “But… it cannot wind me up the oak” . . .

        and then the little the collection, of pictures that follow. Images like “up on the asphalt, spinning my wheels/turning motorized circles” and the girl humming and smiling ” so no one will come pity play with me” –images (pictures) like these contain that tension you felt and now convey in the poem.

        All this to say, maybe the lines which I questioned should stay. But the great thing is, stay or not, it’s still a great poem in my book.

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      • I’ve been reworking the poem in my head, keeping in mind many of your thoughts, and hope to get to work on “paper” soon. I can’t thank you enough for your interest and input, Al!!! ❤ I have only a small handful of friends with whom I can talk poetry, and I would love to discuss more with you, including imitating (thinking about those who made an impact on me… Ben Johnson, May Swenson, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost).
        I will send you my changes when I set them down and work on them further. Meanwhile, keep listening please! I love and value your help and insights!
        Pax Christi
        Christina

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  2. I get May, Emily, and Robert– but Ben? I’m going to look for some of his poems. Meantime, here’s the person who got to me first, really got to me: Gerard Manley Hopkins. “Pied Beauty” in high school, along with

    I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
    dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
    Of the rolling level underneath him steady air

    What a sight! And ever after I’ve looked for it, and seen it in hawks.

    Sadly for me, I keep forgetting about the second stanza. I’m still hoping to make that connection, though it still feels forced: I can find God in the wonders of nature; Christ I’ve tried to find in persons I meet and the ones I love, but even that requires reflection and prayer. Hopkins experienced an immediate connection, at least in the poem– which must have taken time and reflection to work out, the sounds, rhythm, intricacy of that sonnet. See why he got to me first? Next time I’ll tell you about the darkness he passed through, and how his poems still return in memory to guide me through off snd on mine.

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  3. Thank you, (Albert and) Christina, for letting the rest of us in on this poetry lesson. I am loving it, too. And if you hadn’t mentioned this post and discussion more recently, I’d have missed it; I think it was published during a very distracting week at my place.

    Liked by 1 person

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