The joy of revising a poem – “The Rites of the Living” again and again

I posted the first completed version of “The Rites of the Living” earlier. And I’m a compulsive reviser. Poems leave the pencil of fall on the keyboard curtain and then I immediately start playing with them. They grow in the sunlight of my imagination, sometimes getting horribly tangled and messy with arrows going here, scratches there, deletions and reconnoiters all over the place, and then another version might come out. Yesterday, I put “The Rites of the Living” through four revisions and this came out.

“Rites of the Living” [Revised 9.12.2013]

Her mouth the cavern’s verge
of breathing catacombs.
Fossil water echoes through
quartz and calcite halls,
and moans, yes moans resound.
Songs we know to chant,
to chant, eyes closed then wide
with wanderlust during 
urgent rites of the living. 
Songs like humpbacks sing
diving through the boundary, 
songs of tenebra and lux in the deep, 
songs sung to bolster the bellows
blazing the fire of our hearts.


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