Friday, November 25, 2016

Poetry Friday: Endings


I talk to my eighth grade students about endings. 
I teach them about Deus ex machina
In ancient drama, a god would often be lowered onto the stage
To deal with complications and make messes turn out okay. 
In their case, this refers to plot devices such as “it was all a dream,”
Or “and then a bomb fell, and everyone blew up.”

No, they say,
Sometimes it is just a dream,
And you wake up and it’s all gone away.
And sometimes everything really does blow up.

I introduce the concept of Chekhov’s gun,
Which says that if there’s a gun hanging on the wall in chapter one
it needs to go off in chapter two or three.

They don’t argue this one.
They’re all for guns going off.

You need to write a story this time, I say,
Where there is a resolution. 
It doesn’t have to be happily ever after,
But you have to wrap things up,
Instead of writing “to be continued”
When you lose interest in your plot. 

No, they tell me, I don’t understand. 
The best endings are “to be continued.” 
On TV it’s always “to be continued,”
There’s always another episode.
Then you know something else is coming. 
It’s not over.

Maybe that’s one of the differences between 14 and 48:
They want another episode,
Excitement and plot twists,
“To be continued.”
I want everybody home safely in time for dinner,
A wedding,
Peace and quiet:
A dénouement.

Of course on this one they’ll get what they want
And I won’t.
The action doesn’t stop.
The characters and settings keep changing.
Until you’re dead,
It’s always “to be continued.”

Ruth, from

Here's today's roundup.


Mary Lee said...

This makes me laugh out loud. My fifth graders struggle with endings, too, but they aren't sophisticated enough to explain why. Now I know.

Carol said...

I love this! Partly because I have read so many of your dream and bomb endings, and partly because I struggle with writing good endings myself!!!! And I think there is some big truth contained in this poem, but I just haven't figured it out yet!!! Thank you!

Jane @ Raincity Librarian said...

Wonderful. Isn't it true, the difference a few decades can make, how the longing for excitement and adventure can turn into a longing for closure and resolution. You've really captured the spirit of your youthful students. Wonderful

Tara said...

I had to chuckle in reading this...good endings are never "to be continued" in my ancient experience - and that's what makes them good!

SW said...

I love your blog post, and I love you.

To be continued . . .

Tabatha said...

Love your sense of humor, Ruth, ("They don’t argue this one./They’re all for guns going off.") and your ability to see the big picture.

Linda B said...

You may believe you're writing about your students, but I believe you're writing about life, Ruth. What a beauty is your poem, the story of it, and yes, it has a wrap up, a true ending. I hope you share with the students. Well done!

Violet N. said...

So moving, Ruth! Love this slice of life poem, how it shows off the culture and life experience of these kids, the wisdom (lack of wisdom?) that comes with age, and the poem's thoughtful life-large questions. You write beautifully!

Brenda at FriendlyFairyTales said...

Ruth, great poem. Covers so much ground, community, teaching, philosophy, generation gaps. Wow. I struggled with endings when I was a kid, too. Now I always seem to start something knowing the ending. The tragedy of aging!

GatheringBooks said...

Very touching, Ruth. Love it.