Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 28, 2011

Stepping Toward the Brink– of Paper

Last Friday I posted a poem with a bird in it that I took out then put back in, raising some fuss among my fellow or sister bird-lovers and writers. The poem was about the need to watch every word, um, like a hawk. This week I was inspired to write about the kinder moments of writing. It’s wise to question everything, but first we have to find our way in, and if that’s through birds, who do so much for keeping a homebody sane in January, that’s great. Especially when the chickadees or woodpeckers are both close to what I might see outside the window with just enough magic or metaphor to take me somewhere new. The trick is to show them from in new lights: maybe from beneath the wings, or focus on their clever feet or maze of tracks in snow. I try to get a bird accurate, then tilt a wing to an impossible angle, choose a color nature never saw, improvise enough so the bird can break through paper.

In the poem below I’m not trying to suggest my work is anywhere near to the greatness of Charlotte’s Web or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Just that I’m following a method that any of us might of stepping from reality to the fantastic, or what we know to what we don’t, toward our own Maine farms or Narnias.

                                Under the Whispers

E.B. White fed real pigs and mucked his old barn,
studied the anatomy of spiders and their birthing habits
before he made Wilbur and Charlotte speak so we’d believe every word.

C. S. Lewis played as a boy in his grandparent’s wooden wardrobe.
He gave us the feel of old fur coats, the scent of mothballs,
before Lucy stepped through pine boughs onto snow.

I follow a real girl hurrying over cobblestones by brick townhouses,
until by the frog pond in the Public Garden her small hand casts
a shadow, pointing towards something always there, but never seen.

 Jeannine Atkins, all rights reserved

Please visit Elaine, who’s hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at  Wild Rose Reader.



  1. Under the Whispers
    I love this, Jeannine– the cobblestones, the small hand and shadow. You remind me how important the smallest details are.

  2. Very nice!

  3. Beautiful.

  4. I love the small hand and its shadow, pointing to something not yet (but about to be) seen. That, and the bird breaking through paper. May a bird break through paper for you today, Jeannine!

  5. Simply lovely, Jeannine!

  6. Re: Under the Whispers
    Thanks, Mary. Hope you are still enjoying the post-MFA glow!

  7. Thank you!

  8. Thanks, Becky. We’re going to wrangle you into Poetry Friday soon, yes?

  9. What a lovely wish, Toby. Hope birds are busting through your lines, too!

  10. Thanks, Jama. I am looking forward to your Stephen Dobyns treat tonight!

  11. Snort. I shouldn’t have read your replay while I was drinking my tea! 🙂
    I occasionally drop in at Laura Purdie Salas’ 15-words-or-less poetry, and we do have the random haiku email conversations around our house every now and then. That’s about it for me and writing poetry. (Although, really, I think I could win the limerick contest on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!)
    I do love stopping by and reading yours, though.

  12. Reply. Not replay. 🙂

  13. Inspiring poem, Jeannine! I especially love the last line.

  14. Lovely, Jeannine. Really and truly.

  15. Thank you for stopping by and the kind comment, Sheri!

  16. Thank you so much, my Wordsworth-loving friend. (it started in high school for me, too).

  17. I love that magic can be directly traced back to reality.

  18. Yes, that’s the best magic I think. When you can sniff out the origins.

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