Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT May 3rd 2021

Eighteen people from Canada, CA, Lithuania, ME, NJ, NY, PA  (and via the poem: Nebraska) joined on Zoom to close read the poem Shaking the Grass” by Janice N. Harrington, posted below. Participants were quick to notice the alliteration, metaphors, repetition, and visual imagery as well as the duality, the tension and tones of rest and regret, loss and regeneration, a humble voice questioning one’s own vanity. Was the narrator looking back and considering whether they had left some mark on the world?

Intertextual references included: Ecclesiastes, Ezra Pound’s “And the Days Are Not Full Enough” and two paintings: Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World and Charles Allan Gilbert All is Vanity. There was curiosity in the poem and in us. We wondered: who is “my Beloved” and what or who is disappearing along with “the hollow my body made.” We were reminded of the impermanence of memory and, in the heartland of America, the disappearance of  the prairies and grasslands.   

After our discussion, participants had the option to respond to one of two prompts, either “Write about something that came back to you.” OR “Write about lying in the grass.”

One response had us laying in blades of grass with “warm wind,” vibrant colors of “green” and “azure” sky, with birds “zigging and darting” overhead, the narrator conveying a longing for time to stand still in that moment. Another piece gave voice to Odysseus, remembering and then returning home after war, his journey stretched into a decade of wandering on top of the metaphor of “losing my keys.” One piece, like the poem, located us geographically in memory near Grenoble, France, lying in a field cradled between two mountains where the writer was reminded that “beauty is beyond words.” Another writer started their piece with the “sweet, sweet, sweet” of birdsong, as the narrator, while walking, comes upon a “nascent fawn,” itself lying in the grass “that shook ever so slightly,” in echo of the poem while offering an unexpected perspective on “lying in the grass.” In looking at these responses the group noted how they all embodied themes and elements of the poem, including time, geography, impermanence, with wonderfully vivid detail, and still took us in many different and surprising, yet contemplative, directions. 

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Friday May 7th at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


Shaking the Grass
 by Janice N. Harrington


Evening, and all my ghosts come back to me
like red banty hens to catalpa limbs
and chicken-wired hutches, clucking, clucking,
and falling, at last, into their head-under-wing sleep.

I think about the field of grass I lay in once,
between Omaha and Lincoln.  It was summer, I think.
The air smelled green, and wands of windy green, a-sway,
a-sway, swayed over me.  I lay on green sod
like a prairie snake letting the sun warm me.

What does a girl think about alone
in a field of grass, beneath a sky as bright
as an Easter dress, beneath a green wind?

Maybe I have not shaken the grass.
All is vanity.

Maybe I never rose from that green field.
All is vanity.

Maybe I did no more than swallow deep, deep breaths
and spill them out into story:  all is vanity.

Maybe I listened to the wind sighing and shivered,
spinning, awhirl amidst the bluestem
and green lashes:  O my beloved!  O my beloved!

I lay in a field of grass once, and then went on.
Even the hollow my body made is gone.



From Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone by Janice N Harrington. 
Copyright © 2007 by Janice N. Harrington.

7 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT May 3rd 2021

  1. Ella

    Eucalyptus

    Dragging wheelbarrows behind us
    newly lean preschool legs
    stretched out into leggy linearity from their
    stout bowlegged toddler form
    finding sequins in the dirt.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. UL4-8839

    It suddenly came back to me, where I live.
    After wandering for 10 years following a long war and losing my keys.

    And then there I was,
    home at last.

    Now I have to fight my way into my own home
    and kill the suitors.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Kristin

    Lying in the grass I peer into the deep blue sky, wondering about my place in the world. Bright, fluffy, enormous clouds shift shapes in the bowl. A dragon. A whale. A smiling cat ready to pounce. The wind speaks softly and allows the clouds to dance, to morph. This is pleasant, my thoughts adrift, ride the back of a cumulus lion, nowhere to be but here.

    And then, my grandmother’s voice, calling from behind the car, “it’s time to go in”. I rise up on one 6 year-old elbow and remember we are waiting for the doctors to say its OK to visit my mother. My mother, who almost died 4 weeks ago in a car crash, who I haven’t seen since then, is inside learning to walk again. I give a last look up at the clouds and see a winged horse, strong and steady taking flight.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. About lying in the grass~~~

    I lie in this field of green,
    its long blades of grass blown by the warm wind that brushes against my face.
    I look upward to the azure blue sky,
    dotted with puffy clouds that lazily move past me.
    Birds fly overhead, zigging and darting,
    enjoying this spectacular day.
    It is as if their hearts are rejoicing as mine is.
    To be present, to lie here at this moment.

    If only time would stand still,
    if all the trials and tribulations were just far away memories never to be returned to.

    But for now, I am thankful as my body sinks into the soft grass.

    Like

  5. al3793

    I almost stepped on it. The robin’s “cheri-lee, cheri-up”, the warbler’s, sweet, sweet, sweet, and the white throated sparrow’s “old Sam Peabody” had me looking into the treetops. It couldn’t have been a day old. It didn’t make a sound or a move to stand or even budge.

    The nascent fawn, wet from the dew or birth lay almost covered by the tall, pale, green grass that shook ever so slightly in the breeze of the dawn. The remnant of last night’s rain left a damp yet fresh aroma wafting from the woods.

    I slowly inched away trying not to disturb the new arrival’s introduction to the natural world without its mother. Surely, she was watching nearby and would attend to her young when the unintended interloper was out of sight.

    Andre

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ginny

    Meteor

    Lying in the grass, we watched and waited for the Perseids
    we waited and waited,
    and then in flash, a brilliant spark would blaze through the dark night sky.
    Side by side we would lie on the old picnic table
    or right on the lawn, the cool grass below us.
    the deepest secrets would sometimes peek through
    a quick flash of a thought untold would spark through the darkness.
    sometimes one with a long tail trailing behind
    side by side
    Watching the sky.

    © 2021 Ginny Drda

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Elizabeth

    My son came back to me,
    but only because I braved the uncertainties and flew to see him.
    While emotionally he had never left me,
    It was not enough.
    His physical presence was what I needed.
    The separation has been far too long for a mother.

    Liked by 1 person

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