Stand proud as a Tulip

Stevie Smith, “Not Waving but Drowning” from Collected Poems of Stevie Smith. Copyright © 1972

NaPoWriMo 2023, Day 3

Take a short poem you like and reverse all of its meanings

I chose Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith, written below:

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

It is actually very hard to reverse a poem like this. The quick option ifs to just reverse key words, but that does not mean you reverse the meaning of the line and keep the stanzas in context or change the voice speaking. I tried to do that by altering the whole sentence in places to reflect the inverse of the meanings – I hope I made it work.

Stand proud as a Tulip

They heeded my every living word” she said,
Standing upright in her burial shroud.
She is closer, so much closer,
You suspect she’s passed, but like a Tulip she stands proud.

They offered no sympathy to mark her melancholy
Though she outlived them all
When she welcomed the warmth of the sun, it fed her soul,
Then silence rained on them with a leaden pall.

I never felt your or my exclusion” she said
(With unspoken passiveness)
She is the sun in our solar system, they said
On her grave she wrote: “I couldn’t care less!”

7 thoughts on “Stand proud as a Tulip

  1. Stevie Smith’s poem is wonderful. I agree, the process of inverting each word is tortuous and can be torturous, but you tackled it like a pro. I gravitate toward this line: “Then silence rained on them with a leaden pall.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Romana, that line changed a number of times from silence falling, to clothing them, then rain felt right to sit with other weather related stuff, and finally I added “on them” and I felt her smile in gratification. It’s been a very enjoyable test has this one.

      Liked by 2 people

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