Process: The Halloween Poem


Every year I write a Halloween poem – most of the time I try to write a funny poem. When I was in college, I even wrote some performance Halloween poetry (which wasn’t that bad – I should try to find where I stored those).

Anyway, when I was working on this year’s poem, I got into a good rhyming flow, right up until this point:

I waited there so patiently
Out on the grassy hill
But not a soul came near to me
The air was light and still

So far, so good, even if I wasn’t a fan of the fourth line. I had a plan for where I thought this poem was going. It was going to tie into my being abroad. The original title for this poem was “Indifferent Spirits,” because I felt a real disconnect on Halloween. Normally I’m good at finding a spiritual connection on All Hallow’s Eve, but not tonight.  This poem was originally going to involve a bunch of ghosts wandering by, speaking Japanese and wondering what I kept talking to them in English.

The rhyme suggested a different path, and because I didn’t plot out this particular poem I followed. When it turned out the narrator was dead already (what a twist!) I realized that I had wanted to tell a very different story than a funny miscommunication piece.

The last line was a tough one, because my brain really wanted me to end on a scary note, not a funny one. The last four lines were to culminate in something like “There is no pleasure greater than/ a death on Halloween.” I thought this entirely too dark for my desire. While I wasn’t going to change the angle of the poem, I also didn’t want to end it on such a strong, morbid note. Better to go with the angle of time and Halloween, since I think that is what resonates more with a soul than the idea of accumulating more souls.

My brain was upset at this, because it was a really good rhyming couplet. But first thoughts are not always the best thoughts. I try to limit editing when doing a flow poem, but I think the writer has the ultimate authority to step in when tone takes a sharp left turn. Especially when its within his or her own voice.



Time Upon a Hill: A Halloween Poem


Time Upon a Hill

I lay upon the ground at night
Upon All Hallow’s Eve
And set my ears and eyes aright
So that they would perceive
The spirits walking through the sky
Or roaming ‘cross the ground
With eyes shut gently by and by
With ears shut to all sound
I waited there so patiently
Out on the grassy hill
But not a soul came near to me
The air was light and still
Alas I realized too late
Why I was all alone
I came to recognize my fate
I saw my aged bones
Through empty and unseeing eyes
I heard with deafened ears
There’d been a lack of mournful sighs
For the past thousand years
I lay upon the ground at night
A thousand Halloweens
Just waiting till the time was right
For my spirit to be seen
Perchance you’ll be the lucky soul
To see me when I rise
And dance upon the clouds that roll
Across the purple skies
But luckier I think you’d be
To die and rot away
Then you can come and dance with me
Until the end of days
But fear not me, nor death my sweet
You’re young and full of time
So go and carve and trick-or-treat
And I will pause my rhyme
For I remember well my rest
Upon the hill of green
Someday perchance you’ll join me
On a blessed Halloween.

I found your Moon for you


I found your moon for you.
The one you promised me was full.
Around the top of the bamboo hill
Through purple clouds it came in view.

A great round thing that cooled the sky
Just like you said, though you were gone.
And I, atop that hill alone,
Watched your moon go drifting by.