Historical Poetry: Memorial

Historical Poetry: Memorial
Weathered grave markers at Christ Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In this peaceful cemetery lies the remains of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush, and other well know people both in their time and in ours. Here, too, there are markers where time and the elements have rendered unreadable.
By: Daniel Derasaugh

Here; a crafted stone once stood.
Now weathered and leaning.
Beneath which rests an anonymous life.
How it began, how it was lived;
Now as mysterious as the craftsman,

And how it ended?
Dissolved into the abyss of time.

When looking at old grave markers where the inscriptions have been worn away by time and the elements, it is natural to be curious about who is buried beneath it. Perhaps, too, it is natural to easily dismiss these people as not likely having any historical significance. Yet, they were important enough at least to someone who saw it fit to ensure the location of their burial was marked. We can not simply dismiss them. Their life, whatever it may have been, did have some impact on history. In some way, no matter how small, everyone who has lived has contributed to where we are today.

I wrote Memorial a few months before my trip to the Northeast, but it was not until this trip that I found a perfect location to take a photo for the featured image. Christ Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has many markers that fit the theme of “Memorial”, so this provided the appropriate subjects. The hardest part was trying to decide on which photo was better. I wanted to choose one that honors the poem’s theme, carries a mixed sense of wonder, mystery, and a hint of sadness, along with maintaining a respectful nature.

Benjamin Franklin, the most famous and well known resident at Christ Church Burial Ground, along with Benjamin Rush; another signer of the Declaration of Independence among other significant achievements. Franklin attended  services at the church as well, and his pew is a draw for tourists. While the Benjamins are two of the most famous people buried here, there are others of historical significance. I think will further explore this burial ground in a later post.

The point here is to wonder and lament for the unknowns. Not just weathered markers in Christ Church Burial Ground, but everywhere. My inspiration for “Memorial” came from seeing multiple markets in several cemeteries that have weathered to the point of just being a stone jutting from the ground with surfaces worn away, or the carvings of words so faint they are illegible.

These markers are also a way to put time into perspective with our lives, or our lives into perspective with time. They are reminders that sometimes, despite our best efforts not to be forgotten, time eventually forces the issue.





Poetry: Idea Like a Cloud

Poetry: Idea Like a Cloud
Our ideas can be like clouds in the sky being shaped by the currents of thought within the mind. They form unique shapes, but those shapes are ever changing, even if in the most minute details. Every second brings change and the cloud that once was will never be again. Unless recorded, the unique form is lost forever.
A Lost Idea
By: Daniel Derasaugh

It was there.
Swirling inside with everything else.
Radiant in unique yet brief flare.
Notice was drawn to its beauty.

I had it!
Undeveloped, yes, but it was there,
Standing out, shinning with potential,
Yet only for a brief moment.

A morphing shape.
It changed to something similar,
But not the same. What was it?
Now just a shadow in my mind.

I chase it.
The ever-changing cloud drifting across the sky.
I have not the tools to catch it;
Remember it, record it, mold and craft it. 

Its gone now.
Never again to return exactly as it was.
Words scattered into the breeze of other thoughts.
A lost idea.

I think I’ll start carrying a journal and pen.

The subject of my previous post was about the importance of morality in the way our ideas can impact the world. I am at this time focused on the first act of creativity, and since I seem to be fixed with exploring my interests poetically, a particular thought came to mind.

I have recently began to wonder how many poems (published and unpublished) have been written. The answer is likely in the billions throughout history, far more than any of us could read. But then I try to add to that the number the poems people have composed within their minds, yet for whatever reason, failed to write down.I find it a sort of tragedy that such creativity should disappear into the void of forgetfulness as if it never existed to begin with. Chances are that such an arrangement of words will never again come together precisely as the initial creator had crafted them.

Our minds can unexpectedly and spontaneously create amazing organizations of words with meaning. There were times when that happened to me and I struggled to remember lines that would have been great for poetry, stories, or quotes. There was nothing available for me to use to write them down, or record in some way. As I went over them in my head, trying to memorize the lines I discovered that the organization of the words would often change, and sometimes degrade in their quality until the initial meaning was lost.

So now I try to carry a little journal and pencil or pen wherever I go to record and catch them when they appear in kind of my own personal version of Pokemon Go.

Poetry: Course of an Idea

Poetry: Course of an Idea
Crafted from thought and imagination, an idea is born, and if fostered and nourished can change the world in minor or drastic ways. It is the beginning of creation, the point where thought transforms into a plan with the potential for execution. To leave the confines of the human mind to be shared with others, to take form, and to perhaps set on a path or transformed by controlling forces to something unintended by the creator.  What governs how an idea develops and the path it should take?
Course of an Idea
By: Daniel Derasaugh 

To create or destroy.
Encourage or push down.
Free or enslave.

An idea. A thought born,
a growing light,
Or a gathering darkness.

To improve the world,
Or to grasp power.
The choice is not its own.

The creator guides it,
But cannot control it forever.
For ideas, once born, outlive the architect.

Others will take command.
Where will it go? What will it cause?
Ah! My dear friends; we shall soon see;

the importance of ethics and morality.

An idea is a burst of new thought, or old thought renewed in a different way. This alone does not determine a positive or negative effect on the world, but all ideas have one of the the two, or even a mixture of both. The idea itself is usually not the deciding factor if it is to be positive or negative. Instead it is the force that is in charge of it, guiding it to whatever purpose they desire.

But people do not really steer an idea in one direction or another, either. It is the ethics and moral code that they live by that does that. The architect may or may not be aware of it, but whatever moral principles they live by will determine the course of all ideas they create or take charge of. Ethics and morals that are firmly adhered to take on a great importance as they are the shields against allowing an idea to be utilized as a destructive element.

Guide them well.


Historical Poetry: Pottery Fragment

Historical Poetry: Pottery Fragment
Above is a structural foundation that is found in front of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia. As with the pottery fragment the poem below is about, these two creations can be a conduit to the past. Someone who lived long ago skillfully crafted these with their hands. Ponder it some. An artifact held in the hand and looked upon by the holder as more than just an old item with or without historical significance can open up a new way of thinking about history. With a little background knowledge and some creativity, the artifact can come alive and a discussion develop. Below is the result of my first attempt at such a practice: A conversation with history written in poetic form.

Israel Pottery Fragment
By Daniel Derasaugh

Beneath the sands,
covered and lost;
you rested alone.
without worth.

Small, square, copper-toned piece;         
Whose sure hands crafted you?
What purpose did you hold?
Who relied upon you?
And how did it end?

“Pulled up and fashioned from the Earth.
Water for a lone potter’s widow, then,
a young family with a little girl.
A trip to the Jordan,
and a careless step.”

How long was the wait?
“Two millennia? Two days?”
Was there relief to be found?
To be held with purpose, prized?
“No, there was nothing. A numbness.”

You should now know,
There is new worth in you.
Appreciated and valued by One,
Cherished by Another

“I feel now. I know.”

The Actual Pottery Fragment

Pottery Piece 1
Front view of the pottery fragment which is the subject of the poem.

It really is just a small piece of broken pottery, isn’t it? Seemingly insignificant in its importance. There are, after all, an untold number of these fragments. However, it was part of someone’s daily life at one point, or several points, in time.

The two poetic devices prominently used for this poem are personification and point-of-view. Personification is used to allow the conversation by giving the fragment the ability to listen and respond to the questions asked from a realistically imagined point-of-view. Content knowledge is important, but the degree can be variable depending on whether you are just trying to look at inanimate objects in a difference way, or promote your own or others interest in a historical topic.

In truth, I have no way of knowing if anything in the poem actually pertains to this fragment. But this is where schema and imagination work together to create logical meaning where none may exist at first.It is logical to assume this was a vessel for carrying water, and since it was found by the Jordan River, it probably somehow met its demise there.

Pottery Piece 2
Side view of pottery fragment.

Mixing a bit of creativity with history can help make it come alive for those who are not too fascinated with the topic. Doing so allows for something like this fragment to have some kind of importance that can be grasped, making a seemingly worthless piece of clay far more significant. However, remember that whatever is conjured up in the mind, no matter how backed by content knowledge, cannot be taken as historical fact.