That shape in the middle is called play

Between endless hustling
And weary stagnation
Is a set of monkey bars

They are yours to explore

Swing wildly
Feel your own heft and lightness

Is that the sound of laughter?

And if you slip?
Well that’s all part of the game
Land lightly and spring up

There are no rules

Except those that you invent

Do you want to swing two at a time?
Or scramble over the top of the rungs?
Or invite others into your game?

What new inventions will you make
On this familiar frame?

Your hands may blister and callus
But the fun is so much greater
Than the superficial pain

This is your birthright

Perhaps that laughter is yours

Note: I woke up this morning at 4:50am, and had the first line of this poem in my mind. I couldn’t fall back asleep, but I jotted down this line to save it for later.

There were more lines as well during that very early morning waking. I decided a bit of extra sleep, if I could manage it, was more valuable. I don’t remember those lines – though the second line carries an echo of them – I just know that they were different.

Instead, of trying to get them back, I sat down to play.

This week, inspired by a counselling session, I’ve been trying to think about whether my work feels best when I cling to it tightly or try to mold it into shape – or whether it feels better to hold it slightly more loosely. (The image that ended up feeling best was gently cupping my hands around the little ceramic owl that I call my writing buddy – giving him a safe place to burrow and dream, with plenty of space to cheekily peek out and watch the world, and a window to explore it at his will.)

Isn’t it interesting to think of a poem as a branching road? Or a growing plant? None of the choices are wrong, and a line that might take you one place at one time, may lead somewhere very different when you return to it.

I had no plan when I sat down to write this poem, but as soon as the monkey bars cropped up, I wondered – could I make the lines of the poem look like monkey bars? Does it help our eye swing with the same delicious momentum that they inspire?

Photo by Ryan Sepulveda on Unsplash