A few months ago, I posted a draft of a poem I was working on inspired by the photo entitled “The Falling Man.” I have finally completed that poem, after many drafts, many late nights, lots of sharing, and exhaustion. For me, some poems come out almost whole and require few edits. This was not one of those poems. This poem haunted and tortured me. I ended up changing almost every single word in the poem at least once, and often changing it back, and then changing it again. It was a journey, but I am happy with how it turned out in the end —
Photo of “The Falling Man”
North Tower, World Trade Center
I caught you looking lost
in your descent,
and when I stilled you
for a moment with the shutter,
it was as if I could fix you –
turning the frame until you were
right side up, vertical and proper.
I could rearrange it all.
The blue beneath you,
the cold steel hovering above you –
climbing into the waiting arms
of the cloudy sky.
Then the jaunty angle of your legs
could mean skipping rather than slipping,
or jumping into eternity.
How many drafts does your work usually go through? How do you know when a piece is finally done?