dVerse — Poetics — The Move

From childhood I’ve led a nomadic life, then thankfully settled down for a while after my marriage; but due to varied pressures over the last dozen years or so, we found ourselves moving not once, not twice, but four times!

Michael Whelan, “Lights” (1991)

The Move

Let slip the dogs of war, cry ‘Havoc!’1
My life is in boxes. Taped wounds reopen.
Something’s lost, new scars of the march
Mark rosewood and disquiet heart,
Chipping tall glasses into which descanted
Expectations contain shards. I swallow

To survive. Patience. There is no end to it.
Nothing is ever put away in just the right place
As it was before, or ever after. A life’s exhumations,
Dislocated. Some funerary remains stay buried mysteries,
Supernumerary or symptoms of malaise. Diagnosis:
Lassitude. The patient’s surgical cut unanesthetized

Comes at Christmas, when more than one treasured
Ornament is missed, or smashed, glitter powder, a crack
On Nutcracker chin. His stout smile now on my face.
Shrugging away another casualty. The clock chimes.
There are cookies in the oven in the new-not-new

Kitchen where cups and saucers rotate from shelf
To shelf to find a home. The doorbell rings.
I prepare my bravado. Hopeful eyes meet mine,
A Christmas tree on slim shoulders, angelic annunciation
To their father’s bemused smile. Now a certain

Cavalcade of the heart, benediction of wise men’s gold
Escaping boxes, escaping from what was
To what is. Another Egypt. Another promised land.
Father Abraham. Mother Sarah. Tents folded
Unfolded. Tinsel time like tinsel tears shimmer past.
Frankincense and myrrh. My life by blood covenant, Thine.


1“The military order ‘Havoc!’ was a signal given to the English military forces in the Middle Ages to direct the soldiery (in Shakespeare’s parlance ‘the dogs of war’) to pillage and chaos. The ‘let slip’ is an allusion to the slip collars that were used to restrain dogs and were easily ‘let slip’ to allow the dogs to run and hunt.”

Image credit: Michael Whelan, "Lights," acrylic on watercolor board, 1991

I'm guest-hosting today at dVerse "Poetics: Epiphany in the Time of Holiday," where we will write on what an epiphany during this holiday season would look like for us (or someone we know or imagine). An epiphany, writes critic X. J. Kennedy, is 'some moment of insight, discovery, or revelation by which a character’s life, or view of life, is greatly altered.' Epiphany is from the Greek, epiphainein, “to show forth.” (James Joyce, for example, describes epiphanies in everyday life, using stream-of-consciousness in “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” mixing memories, associations, moral/ideological/religious issues.)
Click on Mr. Linky and join in!

30 thoughts on “dVerse — Poetics — The Move

  1. I love this, Dora: I really feel the emotions you describe, as I’m on my 9th move in five years! Perhaps I should just buy a caravan…

    I love the turn here:

    ‘Diagnosis:
    Lassitude. The patient’s surgical cut unanesthetized

    Comes at Christmas,’

    And your conclusion that the one true home lies within. Amen!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Your poem is rich with details, the chaos, the required patience, the unpacking and arrival of the Christmas tree. The whole last stanza dazzles and lifts up my spirit. I felt the joy and happiness of having that steady Love, despite the moving of houses & places. To put up and decorate that Christmas tree with the family is a joyful one. Thanks for the lovely prompt.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Anonymous

    “Escaping boxes, escaping from what was To what is.” Love it! What is – a new covenant where our last move will be most glorious! All praise to the Lamb of God who we celebrate this CHRISTmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A delight – the language is a romp – evolving from the martial clash of moving and its toll on stuff to a slowly warming holiday homescape in which the mother’s epiphany links us to the bright star of distant seedling holiness. So much to love about the poem, it’s got a little Advent treasure stuffed in every door.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Starlingsson l'ermite

    There are some very strong lines there, like every one….such powerful thoughts and actions conjured up, as we are forewarned to, by the startling beginning…a ‘dynamic’ read…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Glenn A. Buttkus

    You encapsulate the holidays and the trauma of moving into a simmering poetic stew. Odd smells from the veggies and flesh, cinnamon, chocolate, rum, and spearmint. We moved 10 times in six years when I was a kid. I got so I enjoyed it, made it into an adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My dad loved to move. I liked to stay. Kristine and I have fortunately lived in the same house 27 years. My older sister, perhaps for like reasons, has lived in the same house for over 50 years. Hope the pressures to move stop for you Dora.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “My life in boxes…”

    What a vivid poem. I can really relate to it, moving every couple years as I grew up in a Marine Corps family… and then moving for 11 different assignments as an Air Force chaplain.

    My wife and I are so happy that we can plan to stay in our current home the rest of our lives.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. A great poem, Dora. Moving is very disconcerting especially as one gets older and attempts to downsize and take less to the next location. I love this line describing a moving experience…

    A life’s exhumations, Dislocated….

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love how this dislocations create such movement in your life and this poem. The images you choose to use are highly effective – Kitchen where cups and saucers rotate from shelf
    To shelf to find a home.

    Thank you for this and for the prompt, Dora!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. There are boxes we packed when we left Paris twenty years and five moves ago that have never been unpacked. Sometimes I feel like blasting all the boxes of belongings and forgetting about them. Good luck with your festivities this year 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dora, your prose describes “havoc” in a real and imaginative way. Moving frequently can tend to make us feel weary and wonder where that missing box is at. During my first nine years of teaching, I worked in five different communities.

    Liked by 1 person

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