is a shadowy mountain.
I scale her thick, furry limbs.
I ride along on the broad, flat ridge
of her back as we roam our rain forest home.
I snuggle into the cave of her arms,
safe, when we nest each night.
The mountain sustains me.
© Catherine Flynn, 2018
This poem was inspired by the photo of a carved mountain gorilla mother and child shared by my partner-in-poetry and Slicing, Christie Wyman, for Laura Shovan’s Ekphrastic Poetry Project. For me, the facial expressions of these critically endangered animals brought this carving to life. It appealed to me immediately, and I had a general idea of what I wanted to write. What I needed was a form that suited my ideas.
There are many well known poetic forms that I could have tried, but I wanted something that would ring true to the African roots of this carving. I didn’t find anything suitable in a search through my poetry reference books, so I turned to Google. There I found an form called the “Eintou.” Described as an “African American septet syllabic/word count form consisting of 2 words/syllables in the first line, 4 in the second, 6 the third, 8 the fourth, 6 the fifth, 4 the sixth, and 2 the seventh.” In addition, “Eintou” is from a West African dialect and means “pearl, as in pearls of wisdom.” The structure also reflects the African and African American philosophy that “life is a cycle. Everything returns to that from which it originates.”
An Eintou felt exactly right for this poem. Now my only problem was matching the word count. I drafted several versions that stuck to the structure explained online, but it just wasn’t working. In keeping with my efforts to develop my Habits of Mind, I decided that by “creating, imagining, and innovating,” I could modify the structure and add a 10 word line in the middle and work back to two words from there. (This form has the added, unintentional bonus of being shaped like a mountain!) I think I maintained the spirit of the form. Also, I definitely stayed true to the purpose of Laura’s project, which “is to practice the habit of writing regularly,” the same purpose of the Slice of Life Challenge.
Thank you to Stacey, Betsy, Beth, Kathleen, Deb, Melanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and each Tuesday throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.