Sometimes the Form Comes First

They sat about four pews back from the
couple with the identical and identically
awful toupees. The only way to tell them
apart from the back was that one guy was

taller than the other. They saw one of
the toupees lean forward elbows resting
on the pew in front of him as if the man
was searching for a kneeling bench. It

was in a liberal, congregational congreg-
ation, not particularly known for being
“high church,” but in that inclusive trad-
ition there is always room for Rome. At

the coffee hour following worship, they
asked him if he came from a Roman Catholic
background. “Oh, yes,” he said, “But, of
course, we feel much more comfortable in

this open and accepting place, but it’s
hard to let go of the old forms. Some-
times the form helps the content when
the content just is too tired to show.

Sometimes going through the motions
helps me to pray.” A poet standing by
heard the man say that and offered an
amen. Sometimes the form of a haiku,

a tanka, a ghazal, sonnet or a particular
meter or rhyme is enough to get the juices
flowing, get the content going, find the
blocked writer’s answer to prayer.


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