The Journey of a Poem | A Poem about a Journey

Australia, spring 2000: I started a poem – the notebook with those first few scratched out lines is still on my desk at home in Dublin. My musician husband was playing at the New Zealand Pipers’ annual tionól (gathering), marking the 10th anniversary of when he had helped them set it up. Along with that, he had a tour of New Zealand and some teaching and performing in Australia. It seemed like a good idea to add stops each way in California at my sister’s, and a visit to Fiji.

It all seemed like a good idea, except that when we left Ireland on a wet April morning I was 5 1/2 months pregnant, and past the 7 month mark when we returned in June (then we ended up with a July baby who didn’t want to wait until August).

I remember getting ready to go to the airport and thinking, “What am I doing leaving?!” followed by the too-late epiphany: “I should be nesting!” It was a very different adventure travelling while pregnant: I felt like everyone was staring as I walked up and down the aisle of the plane on one of our 12-14 hour flights; the one glass of New Zealand wine I tried gave me terrible heartburn. We met many musicians and caught up with friends in both Australia and New Zealand and it seemed almost every woman I encountered had a story of traumatic birth, miscarriage, or infertility, making me feel guilty, nervous, conspicuous. Heat; trying to get back into the boat after snorkelling; riding in the back seat of old cars on bumpy roads; being seated at the door of an extremely small plane because I probably couldn’t get in much further. Fellow travellers at a resort in Fiji commented on the fact that you just didn’t see pregnant women on holiday (“good reason for that,” was the comment in my head).

It was a year or two before I looked at the poem again, and worked on it a bit. Then the poem more or less sat until last year.

When I re-read what I had, I liked it. I liked the feeling of it. I worked on it a bit, sent it off to a friend, who came back with some helpful suggestions: “I think there are two really big concepts at the end and that you only need one – that you can tighten [one] and keep the [other] for another poem.”

So “In Your Own Dreamtime” became the tagged-on poem to the last competition I entered last year. In November I heard it had been selected as a finalist from hundreds of entries. It was a great finish to a year where I’d been working harder on my writing than I had in ages, and receiving the anthology in which it was published was a wonderful start to another year that will hopefully be even more creatively rewarding.

And, my friend’s comments (thank you, Vic!) about the end were spot on. That was what I changed, and that is what was commented on in the prologue of the anthology.


In Your Own Dreamtime

Somewhere between creation and birth

in your own dreamtime

your journey outward began.

Before you ever saw the light of day, the sun rose, set on you

on three continents.

You crossed oceans once, twice, four times.

You ask where before why

your fingers tracing a river on a map,

following the flow from source to sea

Lines of latitude mark your space

you reach to grasp poles, stretch toward the equator

There’s no holding you back.

I can see the open road in your eyes.

3 thoughts on “The Journey of a Poem | A Poem about a Journey

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