Friday, September 23, 2016

Stop Staring!

Be sure to visit Catherine at Reading to the Core for today's Poetry Friday Roundup.

Recently I sat at a sidewalk table having coffee with my daughter. I do enjoy people watching, but when one woman stopped outside the coffee shop to hug a friend goodbye, I suppose I really was staring. My daughter said, "Mom, you have a really bad habit of staring at people." 

People watching is supposed to be conducted in a non-intrusive manner, but sometimes I can't help myself. My writer brain kicks in and wants to know why, want to know how, wants to understand what is behind that gesture. Then my yoga brain kicks in and want to figure out which muscles are not firing and how to address the resulting postural issues. So yeah, sorry folks, but I'm a hopeless starer. 

This month Jane Yolen and Michelle at Today's Little Ditty gave us the challenge to writer a septercet, a poem of Jane's conjuring with three line stanzas, each line containing seven syllables. The staring episode became my starting point. 


It's rude to stare at people,
my daughter's words remind me.
I'm sure that's what I taught her.

I turn away, pretending
disinterest in the woman's
rounding spine, her frowning mouth,

but I need words to describe
her gait, the way she drags one
foot then firmly plants it down.

An accident? Polio?
No way to know. Or did she
strive like Jacob with her God?

My prying eyes refocus
on her face. My daughter pulls
my arm, forces me away.

The woman's figure chiseled
on my prying mind creates
a tale--Once upon a time.

© 2016 Doraine Bennett


  1. Nice poem! Enjoyed hearing the inspiration behind it. My brother used to always scold me for staring at people, so it's good to know I'm not alone -- it's a writer's job to stare. Let's call it intense observation. :)

  2. A wonderful septercet, Dori. You put me right in the moment, walking that awkward line of fascination vs. political correctness. Thank you for contributing to this month's challenge!

  3. A scene we've all probably experiences, in one way or another...great job!

  4. Yes - I'm the same way - I'm hopelessly curious and I want to know people's stories, or imagine them myself!

  5. Oh, that people-watching, tales begun immediately, and a few more peeks cinches the tale. You've made a lovely story after a few glances, Doraine, despite the pulling away by your daughter. Everyone has a story; we just don't always know the true one.

  6. Really enjoyed your poem, especially the details and the thought trails they take you on.

    Give her time and your daughter will end up becoming a starer herself. After all, that's what her older, wiser mother is teaching her.

  7. Oh, the unwritten poems and stories all around us....if only we could look long enough without being rude. You remind me of a painter quick looking up at the subject then going back to the canvas. I always imagined if I could publish a book of poems it would related to the idea of painting like that. You've captured much in your sketch poem. Your curiosity...the unspoken body language....the reproach of a younger generation. It's rich, your poem. Well done.

  8. Your septercet is wonderful, Dori! And I loved reading the story behind it. People watching is so often the starting point!

  9. Great details, Dori! It seems we can all relate. I often wish I could find out if I am right about any of my guesses when I am people watching.

  10. "I'm sure that's what I taught her" - love that line. And your ever-inquisitive, poetic mind, my friend. :0)

  11. You have such a big heart that you can care about complete strangers and see their needs. I find it's rare that people pay that much attention.

  12. You have a keen eye, Dori! I've been guilty of staring with my child reminding me of my own words that it is not polite. Great poem. =)

  13. Dori, thanks for bringing us into your life and habits. The backstory created a great framing intro for the septercet. Your story flows beautifully within the organizational structure of the poetic form.

  14. Facial expressions and body language are so intriguing, aren't they? If we could just capture them with the right words... Thanks very much, I fully enjoyed this poem.