Poetry Friday Roundup is Here!

Passing the Torch

I shake the flame out of my matchstick;
(one flame dies so another can grow)
cup my hand around the candle’s burning wick.

Nothing about this process is quick.
(light one, expect others to follow)
Again, I shake the flame out of my matchstick,

discard it with a flick,
(travel light, shed unnecessary cargo)
cup my trembling hand around the candle’s wick

and listen to the clock tick-tick-tick.
(there’s no stopping time, I know, I know)
I shake and the flame goes out of my matchstick.

This is no magician’s trick --
(it’s a hard pill to swallow)
the cup of hand around the candle’s burning wick

is merely the arithmetic
of love caught and held in a minute glow.
And so I shake the flame out of my matchstick; 
cup my hand around the candle’s burning wick.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021

It’s August, and retirement is getting real. My brain is not filled with thoughts of classroom organization, community building, lesson planning, or safety mandates. And that’s okay. Time to move on to new adventures.

This poem was the first villanelle I attempted in July as I prepared for the Poetry Sisters’ challenge. I used my clunker line from Linda Mitchell (I shake the flame out of my matchstick) but I never intended for it to be a poem about retirement. The best poems are the ones that surprise even the poet, right?

Christie, who has next week’s roundup, is gathering lines for a community “Poetry Is…” poem she’ll post next week. Be sure to check out her post and contribute a line!

Add your link to the roundup here!

32 thoughts on “Poetry Friday Roundup is Here!”

  1. The matchstick seems a wonderful metaphor for the change you are making. The flame is beautiful, there’s a burn to it (loss) but fire holds excitement. You’ve used this clunker well. Congratulations again on this new beginning.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow….just wow. Look at you did with that old line. It really shines. And yes, the best poems are those that surprise us. I have a poem going now that took an unexpected turn. I’m not really happy with it. But, it was kinda fun to see that it turned without anything to do with me! I believe … I know you are going to sail into new adventures that will bring great joy and we will all be a bit jealous. And, I’m glad that you’ll still be part of the poetry community.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this poem the first time I read it. Here I can see so many ways that you have developed the metaphor. Change is hard and navigating this new you is both exciting and daunting. There is excitement and light in the flame. Take your own advice and take your time easing into it.
    I have a stupid question. What did you do with all of your classroom books? I am getting ready to start this year. Every year I think I will cull my books, but I don’t. If I ever retire, I will not be able to fit them in my house.
    Thanks for hosting!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not a stupid question at all. One thing that really helped was previously being on a book award committee and receiving 300-500 review copies per year for multiple years. I got WAY better at giving away books (and “stuff,” too) because of that. As for my classroom library, I have a friend who’s a new school librarian in a parochial school with a horribly outdated library and not much budget. Starting in April, she came every Friday and filled a hand truck full of boxes of books she chose for her collection and her community. Fiction, nonfiction, picture books…slowly my book oasis made its way to her book desert. After she had taken what she could use in her library, my grade level team came and took what they wanted. There was about one shelf full that I left for the teacher who is moving into “my” room. I brought home only my poetry collection.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That surprise element in poetry keeps me coming back, it’s similar to giving oneself over to a painting for a stronger outcome. I like the many emotions your poem stirs up Mary Lee, the time element is ever present to me–”(it’s a hard pill to swallow)” Yes, and this line so beautiful, “of love caught and held in a minute glow.” Keep it glowing, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well done, Mary Lee! Villanelles are so challenging, but you’ve nailed it with this thought-provoking poem. I love the idea that “a candle’s burning wick/is merely the arithmetic/of love caught and held in a minute glow.” Thank you for hosting this week!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mary Lee, retirement is often bittersweet. My new neighbor retired and works part-time in a completely different field. Now, now he is itching to go back to work. – “one flame dies so another can grow.” I see that your poem is filled with wisdom – (travel light, shed unnecessary cargo). I did not travel light because I took hundreds of books with me for my consulting work. I decided that I was not ready to leave the literacy field. (it’s a hard pill to swallow). But you “shake the flame out of my matchstick; cup your hand around the candle’s burning wick” and move on to another great adventure in your second chapter. Where this leads you is in God’s hand so steady your course as you pass the torch, my friend. Thanks for hosting PF with such a beautiful villanelle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carol, I am working to make peace with myself as I DO walk away (for now, but maybe not too far) from the literacy field. (it’s a hard pill to swallow)


  7. Thanks for hosting, Mary Lee, and for your beautiful poem reminding us of the light and dark of change. “It’s a hard pill to swallow” touched me very much, in the midst of all the other swirl of emotions.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mary Lee, you have done that clunker proud! Excellent use of metaphor in your poem for the next phase of your life, your career transition and the prospect of those new adventures. Wishing you exciting times. Thank you also for hosting.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “I shake the flame out of my matchstick;”

    Clunkers turn powerful in skilled hands. I felt this poem in all kinds of ways, perhaps because within this hour I have tick-tick-ticked over to 51 from yesterday’s 50.

    This villanelle is beautiful and fun to read and your process-notes make me think about how it sometimes feels so much more like the words find us than we find them. We need and find each other.

    Your years in the classroom are not the same now, but oh – how you continue to teach.

    Cheers, my friend…to a new kind of fall!


    Liked by 1 person

  10. “No surprise for the poet, no surprise for the reader,” said a really wise and important poet. It can take us teachers a while to make room for the surprises, so dedicated are we to planning it all out in advance! I’m arguing with the term ‘clunker’ since so many brilliant poems have from those little nuggets of ore. My favorite part of this one is
    “the cup of hand around the candle’s burning wick

    is merely the arithmetic
    of love caught and held in a minute glow.”
    Wick and arithmetic! The use of minute after the tick-tick-tick! Delightful and deep.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was a little (okay, excessively) proud of minute, which can sound like a bit of time, but here is mine-YOOT/very small!


  11. How beautiful, Mary Lee! And congratulations again on your retirement. Your poem is bittersweet, just like retirement. It’s hard to walk away, but possibilities for the future are endless. You will find your path, and cup your hand around it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Love this, Mary Lee. I am sure that it is quite the adjustment with a mix of feelings and your poem conveys this beautifully. I’m still not feeling brave enough to attempt a villanelle. Hope your week goes well!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This brings chills, tears and joy. So much here in this poem, Mary Lee. I love your poem inside a poem. A teacher inside a teacher. Light, time, spreading, growing, going….so much to savor. I, too, love villanelle’s done well and this is a beauty. Like you. Such light you have spread to so many others, tiny candles soon burst with heat and flame. I can see it from the things I know about you and all you have done through teaching and sharing and writing and fly-fishing and loving and being. I am SO glad you are writing poems. Wow to taking a clunker line and letting its brilliance shine….like your students, lucky them. And your title? I love it. Poetry saved me in my retirement. Last year was the first year since 1973 that I did not step foot in a classroom at my old school. Just two treks inside the office. I miss subbing and sharing poetry. But we move on. I meet former students and parents and we talk poetry. You can imagine how much I love that.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wow, Mary Lee, I love this in so many ways! First of all, two villanelles in two weeks is a pretty amazing accomplishment on its own. Then taking that clunker, using that form, creating the perfect title… Wow! Wow! Wow! I also love how you used parentheses within the poem. What a magnificent, moving, meaningful poem you’ve crafted! Thanks so much for hosting this week and enjoy the first fall of your retirement!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Mary Lee! I especially like “(travel light, shed unnecessary cargo)” and “of love caught and held in a minute glow.” It’s cool that you brought in another kind of light (“designed to carry a comparatively small load”), which also goes well with a “minute” glow. It’s a light light. “Light” has such wonderful definitions: “something that makes vision possible.” Thank you for hosting and making our vision possible!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh this is wonderful! I’ve bookmarked it to come back to. It invites contemplation of all of the transitions we face in life – endings and beginnings and how they interweave. Thank you for hosting today and thank you for sharing this lovely villanelle. (I am still in awe of everyone who has worked with that form – what a challenge!).

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I love the poem – especially these lines
    “discard it with a flick,
    (travel light, shed unnecessary cargo)
    cup my trembling hand around the candle’s wick”
    The word trembling is so effective here! I can only imagine that it is hard to not be preoccupied with classroom prep, but all things must end – I think your poem alludes to this – time moves on, we age, change is inevitable. You captured it all so well. I think you are ready – at least your writing makes it seem so. Still, it can be bittersweet. Take care! And, thanks for hosting! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Surprise indeed! I really enjoy how you’ve taken that line and found a way to describe feelings that must be complex. I really like the use of parenthesis sandwiched in your stanzas. Thank you for sharing and thank you for hosting!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Oh, I’ve had that happen so many times, when I start to write about one thing and surprise myself by writing about another. I love this. Wishing for wonderful new adventures for you. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Oh wow, Mary Lee – I pointed folks here last week while I was out of town but didn’t get a chance to visit myself. That’s a powerful poem with some poignant imagery – Brava. And I’ve been thinking of you this month… hope you are enjoying planning these new adventures!! Your bright light will just take other forms….


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