Reverse poetry is a form that can be read from top to bottom and from bottom to top. Usually, when the poem is read from bottom to top, it reverses the top to bottom meaning.
I first became acquainted with reverse poetry a couple years ago. My wife shared one with me called “Pretty Ugly.” It is still one of the best executed reverse poems I’ve come across. One thing I like about reverse poems is that they explore the problem of perception. One person’s viewpoint is limited. Despite that, we reach settled conclusions about things, and often those settled conclusions are the opposite of what’s true.
Earlier this year, I decided to try my hand at a reverse poem. The result was “The Root’s Lament.” I wrote this poem from a root’s point of view. It can be read as a look at how different parts of a tree function and contribute to fruit-bearing. But there is a spiritual meaning for me as well.
We all want to feel valued in life. This tends to be easier when our activity produces something that others can see and appreciate. Things look different when viewed through the eyes of the Spirit, however. Spiritually, hidden functions are often the most vital. Prayer, for example, is critical to building a relationship with God, yet it overwhelmingly happens behind closed doors. In a similar vein, Paul reminds a crop of recent converts: “Remember, you do not support the root. The root supports you” (Rom. 11:18).
“The Root’s Lament” will appear in my third book, Shadow and Memory, which I hope to self-publish in 2023. I hope that it does something to support readers in those functions they perform that are invisible but all important.
The Root’s Lament I’m fruitless There’s no way I’m most vital to the tree That’s why I’m clutching dirt underground for nothing Bury the idea that The open-handed boughs, spilling fruit, would topple Without me Rain caught by the tree’s leafy tongues slakes its thirst It’s not like The tree needs me to drill deep, to find stygian springs I sink out of memory While the tree’s twigged fingers interlace with sunbeams (Now read from the ground up)