Draft Process: Desecration Song

71º ~ a cloudy day, not unwelcome, keeping the heat at bay, tiny breezes, squirrels run amok

Last month I wrote about drafting several poems in response to a girl gone missing here in Arkansas.  This past week, her body was recovered.

The angry sisters began in poems about an injustice done to them, personally.  Now, they seem to be morphing into three angry women seeking justice for other girls & women.  Are these political poems?  Maybe.  They are certainly responding to real events, although not naming those events.

Again, I have Traci Brimhall to thank for a draft. (I thank all the poetry gods & goddesses that Traci and I have become friends!)  I keep coming back to Our Lady of the Ruins, in part because of the collective female speaker Traci uses in certain poems, and in part because Traci once told me that a poem of mine needed more ugly in it.  I confess, I shy away from the ugly.  I paint it over with pretty words, all the while trying to describe it.  Somehow, the angry sisters are forcing me to face the ugly.

In particular, I thank Traci for her line, “Spring returns with its terrible resurrection,” from “A Year Between Wars.”  I had already scribbled out a dozen clunky, long narrative lines about the discovery of the body last week.  I really have nothing against great narrative poems; however, I am not at home there.  I like the fragment and the white space, the hint and the leap.  Still, these angry sisters sometimes drag me back to narrative.  In any case, after setting my journal aside in disgust, I went back to Our Lady and discovered the line above.  Instantly, I went back to the journal and wrote this:

At six o’clock we watch as spring
resurrects the bloated body of a lost girl.
No live footage. A map of the river.
The girl’s familiar snapshot smile frozen
on the screen for months.

I continued to draft another twenty lines or so, realizing that my earlier draft paid too much attention to the girl…for the angry sisters, I mean.  For them, the focus is always on “the sinner,” the one who harms the girls or women the sisters seek to avenge (note: not always a man).  In the journal draft, the sisters are angry because the man who killed this girl has already killed himself, so they can’t do anything.  In the journal draft, they build an effigy and destroy/burn it, my idea being that they would offer the ashes up at the girl’s funeral.

Somehow, when I went from journal to computer, I remembered Traci urging me to get to the more ugly truth.  The title of today’s draft, “Desecration Song,” may hint at what the sisters ended up doing in the computer draft…yep, digging up “the sinner” and tearing apart his actual remains.  They then douse him in kerosene and light him on fire.  The funeral of the girl never comes into it.  Instead, the draft ends, “Our punishment is knowing we will always be / too late to play the role of saving graces.”

I have no idea if this draft will survive in this shape and form. Time and revision will tell.

Posted by Sandy Longhorn


Carol Berg

Oh wow!! These poems are sounding so fabulous–I can't wait to read them. And I love that about bringing more ugly into poems. Very smart!

Also? Word Verification: makes yetyler. I don't know what yetyler is yet, but is sounds cool.

Sandy Longhorn

Thanks, Carol. The drafts are pretty raw as yet, but I'm hoping to have some ready to send out to journals mid-summer.

Now, you need to create whatever it is that makes "yetyler." 🙂

Sandy Longhorn

Thanks, Carol. The drafts are pretty raw as yet, but I'm hoping to have some ready to send out to journals mid-summer.

Now, you need to create whatever it is that makes "yetyler." 🙂

I'm also looking forward to reading an entire batch of these angry sister poems. They seem to have so much to say through you and vice versa.

Sandy Longhorn

Thanks, Shawnte! The persona really is a two-way street.