Driving the Poetry

Monday Morning Musings:

“A ‘strange coincidence,’ to use a phrase

By which such things are settled now-a-days.”

–George Gordon, Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto Vi, Stanza 78


We see the movie, Paterson,

a quiet, lovely film about poetry and the beauty of everyday life,

of things like matchboxes and waking up beside the person you love,

coincidences abound,

the bus driver/poet named Paterson who lives in Paterson,

his love’s whispered dream about twins,

and the multiple sightings of twins–

things like this always seem to happen to me,

is it coincidence, synchronicity, or a poet’s awareness?

I eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations,

put them in a poem,

then wonder if the universe does the same,

or perhaps there are other worlds,


but with an occasional intersection

the hole in a Swiss cheese cosmos that breaks,

the slice of bread “in a giant cosmic loaf”*

perhaps still connected to another slice,

or are we sandwiched between two slices,

which are nibbled by time?


So, I watch this movie with its coincidences,

its references to dimensions and time,

then laugh,

when after seeing the many pairs of twins onscreen,

I discover that same day Beyoncé announced she’s having twins,

and smile at the universe’s joke

when after I had been thinking I should buy a small notebook

to carry with me

to jot down my thoughts

like the poet/bus driver does,

I clean out a shelf,

discover little notebooks,

notebooks given to me years ago,

before I wrote poetry,

as if it wasn’t the right time for them then,

but it is now,

and they’ve been waiting.


Am I a historian/poet,

or a writer who writes in many forms?

William Carlos Williams,

the doctor/poet

is a presence in the film–

I didn’t know he was born in Paterson,–

But I know that poem,

you know the one—about the plums?

I remember looking it up once in summer,

I think of plums, warm and fragrant, not cold,

imagine the juice running down my chin,

my skin, summer-brown,

it’s another me I imagine

from a time in the past,

perhaps it still exists in a parallel universe,

when my body was thin and lithe,


and firm as a plum.


a few days later,

we’ve been pet-sitting,

and now we’re driving home

just the two of us in the car,

sitting in silence,

my mind wrapped in thoughts,

a package that I will unwrap

arranging the contents carefully,

hoping I remember on which shelf I’ve left each one.


I say to my husband,

“You know how the character in Paterson drove his bus

listening to passengers and looking around him

while he was writing poetry in his head?

That’s what I was doing–

thinking about coincidences and writing poems,

but while you drove.”

“That’s OK,” he says.

“I thought that’s what you were doing. “

I smile

And we’re home.




“’Stranger Things’: How Realistic are Parallel Worlds?”


The poem about the plum, William Carlos Williams, “This is Just to Say.”

Paterson, official trailer.


30 thoughts on “Driving the Poetry

  1. You are an historian, poet, AND writer in many forms, Merril. Your musing today made me wonder about many things including how many strangers’ conversations have made it into creative writing pieces. 🙂

    I don’t know William Carlos Williams’ poem about the plums, but I do know the one about the wheelbarrow. Your notebooks fascinate me. Did you notice they all fit a similar color scheme? Mine, heater-skelter in design and hue, are bunched up against photo albums. Sometimes I take a look at them and marvel at my thoughts.

    • Thank you so much, Marian!
      I love people watching and listening.
      The link to the poem is at the bottom of the post, if you’re interested. It’s a short poem. Three of the notebooks came together, as a set, and it’s a coincidence (:) ) that the fourth one has similar colors. They’re all small notebooks that I could easily slip into a purse. They look larger than they are in this photo.

    • Thank you, Susan.
      We had been seeing previews for Paterson for months, so I really wanted to see it. I liked it, and I’ve thought it since. My cousin thought it was good characters in search of a plot. So–I guess it all depends on what type of movies you like. 🙂

  2. I love these lines so much:

    sitting in silence,
    my mind wrapped in thoughts,
    a package that I will unwrap
    arranging the contents carefully,
    hoping I remember on which shelf I’ve left each one.


    or are we sandwiched between two slices,
    which are nibbled by time?

    Always fun to ride along in your mind 🙂

  3. I’ve never heard of this movie. Is there a connection between the movie and Williams’ epic poem “Paterson”? I’ve only read parts of it, but it’s supposed to be amazing. Wouldn’t you think I would read the whole thing, then? Sigh. I’ll have to look for this flick . . . .

  4. Those notebooks look very inviting! I think you’re right, they were waiting for the right time.
    The mind IS a parallel world I think. The trick is to remain present both inwardly and outwardly.
    Nina grew up in Paterson…I wonder if she’s seen the movie. (K)

    • Thank you, Kerfe.
      I think you are right about remaining present inwardly and outwardly.
      Interesting about Nina. I’ve never been there, but I’m sure someone who knows the city would see familiar landmarks–there are several shots of the falls.

  5. Wonderful, Merril. Calming. Peaceful. I wish I had better words to use to tell you how much I enjoy your writing and your musings. There’s an almost musical quality to it, and I think I get a touch of synesthesia when I read your poetry and prose because there’s color, too.

  6. Hi Merril.
    It’s great to be back reading your blog and catching up on other blogs as well after our Tasmanian holiday and my writing fest trying to catch up on the holiday. We’ve been back a week and I’m still going.
    I have spent many hours struggling with who I am and all sorts of identity issues and get that element of your poem. You tackled it well.
    I had real trouble trying to buy a notebook in Tasmania. I wanted some thing big to write in which would cover the whole trip. I also wanted something special worthy of this trip of a life time. I ended up just buying a notebook from the supermarket and it was good in the end because I really only had time for jottings.
    What I’ve found works well for me as a what’s happened journal, is using a day to a page diary. Some days, it’s a huge struggle to fit everything in and there are too many blank pages (which I usually vow to get back to!)
    AS far as writing poems on the run is concerned, I’ve been known to write in the back of novels and the back of dockets when things get desperate. Recently, I was inspired while driving and was calling out the lines for my daughter to write down. I think this was real confirmation her Mum is crazy.
    xx Ro

    • Your comment made me laugh. I haven’t used the notebooks yet, and I haven’t really kept journals. I tend to think of poems at weird times like in the shower or during spin class–or in the car–and then I just try to write down a rough draft when I get to my computer.

      • I get inspired in inconvenient locations too, Merril. I think being out and about and busy fuels our creative juices. I used to be cooking dinner and jotting down notes and trying to keep them somewhat out of the food.
        Hard to accommodate writing during spin class!
        BTW After having apricot turnovers and apricot crumble slice while away, I bought a kilo of apricots today and made Apricot Crumble for dessert. It was yum!
        xx Ro

  7. …the hole in a Swiss cheese cosmos that breaks,

    the slice of bread “in a giant cosmic loaf”*

    perhaps still connected to another slice,

    or are we sandwiched between two slices,

    which are nibbled by time?

    Lol. I’m always left to ponder your talent and the way you weave political viewpoints into your writings. We are all interconnected, and although we may identify ourselves as A or B, we still live in the same America. Intelligent, thoughtful, and humorous — I love your work!

  8. I liked this a lot, Merril. I had an unusual serendipitous thing, ran into my guy friend who was dropping his kids off to ex, had just finished and went to get a Gatorade. I was at a gas station getting filled up after the drive back from Mom’s. ❤

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