“How do my knees” (revised)

How do my quaking knees not buckle, as they wish,
To plead with God in heaven for your swift return?
For while you’re absent, so “are all my joys at once,”
As in your presence, once, my heart was ever glad.

An earlier version of this was posted as last week’s poem; in the comments there Maria pointed out a serious weakness, and it took a fairly thorough, wholesale revision (including a change in meter) to address it within the constraints of formal poetry, and I decided to post the revised version today.

As always, I earnestly welcome your (further) comments, suggestions, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. (In other words, if you liked this poem, or you didn’t like it, or it made you think of something, or … please leave a comment to let me know.) If you liked this, you can follow this blog, which includes one of my poems every Friday, or read other poems I’ve written here on my blog (starting with yesterday’s archive installment, since the full archive is by now, at well over a hundred poems, somewhat daunting); I’d especially like to know, as part of my preparations for a collection, which poems you think are my best. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

The updated version of this poem is now mirrored on my wiki; WEbook appears to be down as of this writing.


11 thoughts on ““How do my knees” (revised)

    • Thank you.

      It’s still not ideal. At least a couple of the other lines don’t work feel quite as sharp as their more compact counterparts did (though it’s better to have a consistent form and have everything be at least minimally clear than to be compact and impenetrably obscure). And I still would like to have expanded it in length rather than merely width; anything this short feels too much like a “fragment” rather than a “poem” for me (and I have a friend who told me, soon after I met her, that none of her poems are less than a page!). But this will at least, I think, do.

      (Unless someone, you or anyone else, has something further to say that will spark more improvements, of course.)

    • I hadn’t thought of that, but I think you’re right.

      It shouldn’t be too surprising—a lot of my poetry feels like late variations in a musical theme-and-variations-style symphony or similar work. And it would also (especially if this is the last stanza) explain why I have so much difficulty thinking of even how to start expanding it. I have on occasion written poems that were “sparked” by what became one of the last lines (“Hold! Fleeting instant”, for example), but I usually find working “backwards” tremendously difficult.

      Ad that difficulty is compounded by the (for me) nonstandard meter I had to go to in this revision; if it were my usual blank verse I might have been able to pick some other fragment to be the beginning and work “forward” from there to bridge them, but since I don’t have anything else in my files in hexameter (I think …) I’d have to start from scratch. Anything is possible, of course, but this will probably have to molder in the archives or quite awhile longer, I’m afraid.

    • Having a (suitable) title (I use the incipit on this blog, another Web page, or in similar contexts when I don’t have proper title because I need to put something there, but in my collection I’ll use incipits on the title page but no such heading with the poem itself) would improve the poem. But the title you suggested doesn’t seem (to me) to fit.

      (And, if my fragmentary recollection of the context in which I wrote this is correct, the absence wasn’t unexpected, but my depth of feeling when it began was …)

  1. I understand, Jonathan. The title I offered was simply a suggestion of the type of title that provides context and in a sense completes a poem. I believe you’ll find your way with this poem (and its title)!
    Thank you for sending me to wiki to discover incipit… I didn’t realize that there is a specific term for this.

    • Actually, until I went to find a link to use as an explanation, I wasn’t aware that “incipit” was normally used for poems and books too; I’d met it in reference to music (when the Hymnary site run by a professor at my alma mater added a “search by incipit” feature), and was going to adapt that sense to cover poetry as well … only to find that what I wanted was already an established meaning.

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