I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world, to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')

These poems are works in progress and may be updated without notice. Nevertheless copyright applies to all writings here and all photos (which are either my own or used with permission). Thank you for your comments. I read and appreciate them all, and reply here to specific points that seem to need it — or as I have the leisure. Otherwise I reciprocate by reading and commenting on your blog posts as much as possible.

30 April 2017

A Conversation with Mr Campbell

Joseph, I said, I think you've got this bit wrong.
Or maybe it was your mate, Brendan, 
the way he restated it. Be that as it may ...
I'm not arguing with you about all that Heroic 
Journey stuff, you know we all love that –
it's not even a matter of believing in it as such;
it's so appealing, everyone just took it on,
decided to wear it and swore that it fit (one size 
fits all – perhaps with a bit of twisting and tugging, 
but anyway good enough). No, it isn't that, it's 
this other thing, about the penultimate moment
of a journey – the second-last kiss, or whatever –
being the very best bit. Oh, you make a good case.
It all sounds positively exhilarating, the way 
you tell it, and for a minute there I didn't even
question if it were so – until I was invited
to write a poem in support of this proposition.
Well! That soon sorted me out. I mean, really?
You think getting ready to step off the plane is better 
than that moment when you're through Customs 
(finally) and walk out into a brand-new country? 
And as for second-last kisses, they were precious
of course, like the first, and the third, and the seventeenth,
and the five hundredth, and so on and so on, and all....
But you remember the last. I remember the last.
And the final words, and the final smile, or tear,
and the sight of him walking away that very last time, 
even if I didn't know then that it was the last time. 
And the times I did know, when he and she and they, 
one by one, individually, took that last breath.

And then I shut up, and Joseph, too, kept quiet 
(as the grave – being dead, after all). 

At 'imaginary garden with real toads' for day 29 of April Poetry Month, Penultimatums, Brendan MacOdrum invites us to consider a tale of St Brendan and some words of Joseph Campbell in support of the idea that penultimate moments are often the richest. 

Here is an earlier, very different response to the same prompt.


  1. Thanks for making a case for last stands! I tossed the first poem I had written for this challenge -- couldn't quite nail whatever sense of penultimate I had challenged everyone to write about -- posted a second attempt and, still not happy with it, tried and posted a third. All I did was get closer to penultimate meanings, which are far slippier it seems than ultimate ones. We can just call it a forgettable challenge, if you like. We learn what is penultimate only when we get through the last, anyway. Thanks for challenging the challenge, hope you finally got some sleep ...

    1. Actually it became a very memorable challenge for me, LOL. Writing this poem was fun.

  2. Maybe the last is still the sweetest or just he one we remember the most, or if the last is the lost one, then of course the penultimate is the last.

  3. I love this response to the prompt, Rosemary! Hope you got some sleep ❤️

  4. a clear-eyed close here, Rosemary ~

  5. Although I got a great deal from reading Campbell, there are others that have, or give me a deeper meaning. For me the Journey is just that, a step by step movement and the meaning (like a dream) must be left to the one who chose to make the journey. The further away from the experience, the more deeper the meaning of seemingly inconsequential moments that were almost missed, negated at the time. Campbell was selling an idea, you were responding to a prompt, while I find meaning in odd moments which others might never understand. That said, I like the energy I find in your piece,


    1. Yes, I wouldn't want people to take this piece too seriously. While I had a point to make, I was also exaggerating and deliberately misinterpreting for satirical effect.

  6. Rosemary, this was a gorgeous Read! Wow. And no, one does not forget those last kisses and the walking away.......

  7. !! You certainly give Mr. Campbell a few things to ponder! Oh, yes, those last kisses...

  8. The ending made me grin. Thank you for that, Rosemary.

  9. I thought I had commented..oops...i read when you posted and laughed at the thought of JC (Interestiing initials) turning in his grave, albeit quietly. ;)