Writing Short Rhyming Poems with Metaphors

Metaphor Poems

(A note to the reader: Metaphor may be most simply defined by comparison with a simile. In a simile we say, for example, that love (an abstraction) is like fire. The word like is the indication that we are drawing a comparison. In a metaphor we say that love is fire. Or we say that it has a characteristic of and behaves like the metaphor, for example, Love burns....

Some poets pile up metaphor on metaphor, often inadvertently mixing them, at the expense of readability and comprehension.

Others consider the poem as a whole “the metaphor” and tend to write in a more plain narrative style. In such poems the clue to the metaphor is often hinted at in the title and more fully disclosed towards the end of the poem. In such poems the title is called the constituting metaphor.

The latter approach to using metaphors describes these poems better than the former, though metaphors appear throughout the bodies of most poems.)

(All the poems which appear on this page are taken
from 21ST CENTURY BREAD © 2007 by Leland Jamieson.)

Change Pace Poetry 16: More Strong Metaphors

Dance of the Quivering Digits

For Savannah and her Fifth Grade friends. April, 2005.

When thought and feeling don’t pan out,
does your heart throb with aching doubt?
You fear that you will never write
another line that feels quite right?
Then drum your fingers, and find “feet”
to dance the line your digits beat!

Next, find a rhyme word that can pull
a second line — one trim but full —
from heart and mind and quivering hand
whether or not it’s what you “planned.”
When once you’ve got two lines that dance,
across your lips quick smiles will prance.

Where do these two lines want to go?
How step aside and let them flow?
If you rely on feet and rhyme
they’ll find you more lines, every time.
Say “Yes!” to their uncanny smarts —
well known for warming poets’ hearts!

They’ll often lead you to express
a thought or feeling with finesse
you did not know you had in you
until the rhyme pulled it in view.
Thus, you may open inner eyes
to see what’s true — for you. Surprise!

Formal Poet as a Whittler

The poet grips a block of oak
and chips at it with chiming blade
by feel, for rhymes it may evoke.
The lyric heft in hand is weighed
for spirit’s shapely escapade,
for fragrant lines that guide the eye
and ear — and voice to sing thereby.

Graying Catbird — Singing

Pinch me. Within a week I’ll be
a septuagenarian,
and though I’ve still got much esprit
to spend for goal posts not yet won,
the young folks hold that I am done.
They put me in the checkout line
and couldn’t care what I opine.

What I opine — if it’s from left
skull’s brain — myself I couldn’t care.
Of left I’d hardly feel bereft.
It’s right brain’s gifts I hope to dare
to bring to sunshine, open air:
Amazements mother tongue may wing
and felt intelligence may sing.

Mountain Laurel

Within our laurel’s blooms I spy by chance
two catbirds, improvising ear to ear,
as each upon the other’s art descants.
I stand in awe of how the two cohere.
Aware of me, perhaps, they flush, and clear
the laurel, soaring to our neighbor’s orchard —
and leave the scrawny poet in me tortured.

Thirst Drives Us All

To glimpse truth whole, in line and rhyme
which speaks (surprise!) to inner Eye
and Ear, rewards a poet’s climb
up stony brook-beds often dry.
And should one’s readers laugh or cry —
their parched thirsts slaked, so they can swallow —
the joyful poet toasts Apollo.

Change Pace Poetry 15: Strong Metaphors #2

Void of White

The void of white — before that first
impression hands have not rehearsed,
before the voice has found its chords
or fingers beat their keys to swords,
before each moves, creates anew —
most deeply frightens me. And you?

Arcs of Quarks?

What is this pleasure, making poems
from tabula rasa, from scratch?
From void’s deep nothingness, what homes
upon the sentient being’s thatch?
What lights it like a flaming match
and would consume it — yet ignites,
with grace, these words by bits and bytes?

What paces heart, darts inner eye,
reverbs in mind, rebounds from brain
through pen or keyboard fingers ply?
What vibes try voice cords, give free rein
to bone-and-air-wave ears’ domain?
What Zero Point Field’s “found-gone” quarks
delight us with their blinking arcs?

From a Long Pig’s Pen

A fellow asked me once, “What makes you tick?
Expressed in three words, neither more nor less?”
You’d think I’d know all my own bailiwick
but I’d not thought it through, I must confess.
No thoughts or feelings would stay put — I roped
and hog-tied lots of them, but most dodged off
my cagey pen, while others interloped.
So I gave up the game of philosophe.

The rods and cones of it come down to this:
By letting go obsessive hot pursuit
I draw myself away from that abyss
to slanting light, capricious breezes, a route:
Blank paper, meter, rhyme — so frangible —
my three are seeing, making tangible.

Form as Kindling

A poet may seek less from speech than embers,
from smoldering coals that shrink on his gray grate
until, with kindling, he some flame remembers.
What heartbeat-metered lines accelerate
his unsung Mother Tongue will celebrate
when inner chimes draw her to life with rhyme
well-matching both his past, and present, time.

Change Pace Poetry 14: Strong Metaphors

Springing Formal Tongues

“The poet who imposes rhyme at ends of lines just complicates his task,” said Freeverse. “Burns up time! Forget those wind-chimes rhyme creates. Dismiss that breeze which captivates, you say, one’s ears and nose and eyes. Throw out those rhymes in senses’ guise.

“What is mere
in your stress of speech
your ‘feet,’
your ‘line’?
I hear a sing-song voice —
or less.
I sleep.
Ta-TUM-ta’s anodyne!
Don’t ask me drone
ta-TUM-ta’s whine.
Far better that I vote with feet.
Give me potatoes.
Give me meat.”

I said to Freeverse, “Think! Make sense!
It’s speech-stress springs the formal tongue
and heaves into the breeze its scents
and sights, its ear’s delights — when wrung
from pulsing lines the poet’s strung.
You hold in hand the poem, whole.
You feel its heartbeat, sense its soul.

“So you must dare to read with flair!
No formal poem’s a travel guide
in broken prose — look here, look there!
We need your conscious full-length stride
to call up feeling pain would hide,
strike water from the rock of doubt
and heal our wounds from inside out!”

Scrabbling for Scarlet Oaks

A poet scrabbles in his Mother Tongue,
lays down not words with letters scoring high,
but lines of words to hear what’s not yet sung
which — ringing true — will need no alibi.
With serendipity he stumbles on
those sensate words that rhyming lines evoke,
with images a meter spawns: clear-drawn
rough acorns which prefigure scarlet oak.

A reader reads across the meter’s beat
with speech-stress sounding cadenced counterpoint
inviting heart and mind to dance with feet.
The scrabbler’s and the reader’s work — conjoint —
conspire, creating out of clear bold air,
with Mother Tongue, her foursquare oak, mon cher.

Formal Poet as a Rooster

As a violin beneath one’s jaw
will resonate in the conch of ear,
spread gooseflesh through the player’s maw,
electrify his chakras’ sphere,
impel him toward a right-brained awe —
so may a formal chanticleer.

The horsehair bow of reading stress
contests each line — articulates
what’s drawn across pentam or less
(tetram or trim) — and celebrates
new vibes that “free verse” can’t express.
What un-taut string reverberates?

It’s speech-stress firing at the breech
ignites taut measured lines’ end chimes,
push-pulls at sense with feeling’s reach —
as poet (reader, hearer) times
out moss-thick tongues, cliché-gray speech,
and cries up dew-fresh paradigms.


For G.K.J.

Escaping the glaring sun, the heat’s ennui,
his soul mate — forty-three years plus — and he
explore The Shed to replace mugs they’d lost.
Nearby, two droning, throbbing fans exhaust
the shed-bound, moist, and fragrant earthy smell
of drying work five potters soon will sell.

They each move slowly, carefully appraise
a little vase that shines in a slate-gray glaze:
“Nasturtium nosegays would look nice in this,”
she says. He now recalls how she finds bliss
in hardy gentle flowers she re-seeds
each spring in barren clay, and gladly weeds.

She steps behind a potter at her wheel
who trims a bowl and adds more eye-appeal.
He sees, within his soul mate’s eager eyes,
a thirsting ardor she would minimize —
it’s clear they shop not for a mug or vase
but with a purer need she must embrace:

She has a yen to shape soft silicate,
extract from it what may authenticate
her gift for comely, strong design — that stole
she wears which births and clothes her maker’s soul,
gives thanks for every free-form gift of mud,
and consummates her clay-self’s trial by blood.

All One Has

For G.K.J., who holds that
art is not a competitive sport.

One’s character is all
one has, and it grows tall
against all droughts with a taproot
burlap cannot wrap.

One’s character’s revealed
in action one’s concealed
from ogling eyes’ cold praise,
from klieg lights’ hazy rays.

(The public will accept
clichés, and is adept
at avoiding deeper feeling —
although it thirsts for healing . . . .)

When unobserved, and free,
what does one do to see,
to be, make tangible
a hidden life that’s full?

To find and do that thing
emboldens one to sing —
art’s character impart,
its taproot got by heart.

Breaking Light

Her canvas backpack carried broken glass,
smashed bottles (soda, wine or beer) she chose
for tint from ghetto sidewalks clumped with grass.

A purplish blue or pink would re-compose
its shards beside those amber, red, or green,
and they a fresh new pattern would disclose.

Epoxied to her gesso boards, they’d sheen
beneath the gallery lights, no longer shards
but fresh bright wholes, compelling us to glean.

We too are artists. Each of us regards
with outer eyes while Inner Eye’s deep sight
construes — makes new — what brightest light bombards.

Contemporary Newborn’s Gaze

(After seeing, at Pump House Gallery, Hartford, Connecticut,
the sculpture in granite, “Solitude,” by Betty Gerich.)

This polished sculpture well-depicts a Mom
whose bearing — shoulder, nape, bowed head — is shown
to flow from swaddled child in cradling palm.

The tiny infant’s skull is still a cone
just springing back from birth canal’s wet vise.
Expectant eyes gaze up, entreat Mom’s own.

The viewer kneels to grasp the newborn’s prize,
to gaze past forearm, breast and collarbone
to face — which has no smile, no lips, no eyes.

Knot-Popping Art

For G.K.J.

She, the hydraulic engineer,
thrusts to and fro the three ton ram
as he hoists logs so they will shear
against the wedge, and not just jam.

He must stay conscious — that is key —
and keep his palms and fingers clear
of log ends (where they’d like to be)
or he will pay a price too dear.

The art’s in turning from the wedge,
and to the ram, the log’s knot ends.
The length of log gives wedge an edge —
knot-popping leverage that it lends.

Knot-popping art between these two?
Compassion. In each rendezvous.

Waxwing, Turkey, Dove

The cedar waxwing, fragrant from her bath
in curbside dust, struck with a dull petard.
Her beak, her crown, her wings on upward path
imprint our picture window, which had barred
her from our home, built far too avant-garde.
We boast that Art one-ups dull nature’s frame.
These sunlit dust lines other views proclaim.

We seldom take the turkey’s point of view.
Slaughtered and plucked, racked belly up, legs tied,
its skin browned crisp, there’s nothing it can do
to reassert its dignity and pride.
Who stops to think, when hungry, goggle-eyed? —
before the asteroid did reptiles in,
these feathered flying lizards owned the inn!

Too close, caged doves contest the sole swing perch.
They’ll not defer, through courtesy or love,
or yield the swing, though cage may wildly lurch.
Nor is the dove content to push and shove,
or on those talons lace a boxing glove.
The one is mirrored in the other’s eyes —
will shred that image ’til the meeker dies.

21st Century Bread Cover

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