Kerfe has just reminded me of a poetry form I devised a couple of years ago and promptly forgot about. It’s called a 42 after Douglas Adams and his answer to “the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.” It starts with a one-liner question, followed by a two-liner of background, and ends with a three-liner of resolution.

Question for the Earth

Why the rain, the cold?

Earth sleeps beneath dead leaves
chill in every feather.

When frost pricks blue flesh
and cold is waiting in every corner of the house
I cup my hands around the living flame.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

35 thoughts on “42”

  1. Interesting form. I think your last line could start a new poem, but not 42. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I read all those Hitchhiker books when I was in grad school, and I was laughing so hard that my husband had to read them, too.

    1. I think you either ‘got’ Douglas Adams or you didn’t. I’m afraid I never did. Somebody gave our middle one the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on an audio cassette and he thought it was hysterical. Must have skipped a generation ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I’m not the biggest fan of Adams’s work, either, though I appreciate his attempts at blowing up platitudes. So 42 rather than a ponderous truth we’re supposed to contemplate.

    In another way, perhaps, I admire the visceral quality in your work here and how certain words make it so real–“blue flesh,” “cup my hands,” “living flame.”

    1. Thank you. It’s too real. We’re cold in this house with no proper heating. The ‘outside’ invites itself ‘inside’ and we are very aware of every slight change in the wind and the clouds.
      With Adams as with all humourists, if you don’t get it, you really don’t get it.

      1. I’m sorry to hear about the cold. We’ve had roller-coaster weather, moving fast from warm to cold, making me think we’re all going to get the flu. It would be worse to have it very cold all the time.

      2. It’s just this house. No heating and full of holes. Yes, a far northern climate would be hell. At least hell should be warm.
        The weather was very mild, warm even until Christmas Day then we got an Arctic blast that came down from the British Isles and it’s settled. Are you going to be able to get a vaccine? It’s so slow in France. Only 138 people have been vaccinated so far!

      3. In the USA, many have been vaccinated. Politicians first, though they say that was to model good behavior. Now hospital staffs and others working directly with the ill. I’m glad for that. And those over 85 who are immunity-deficient. As a normal person nonetheless with heart disease (and thus poor immunity), maybe I should get a shot soon. The state and healthcare systems have sent out notices without specific details. We’ll see. For now, I’m fine. I hope you and yours are, too.

      4. We’re all fine, thanks. I don’t have a treatment for my condition which is good in a way as the treatments available destroy the immune system. My immune system is, therefore top notch. Keeping away from ‘people’ in general will help until the vaccination programme begins.
        If you have an immunity problem, you ought to be bumped up the queue. I hope so.

      5. Thank you. I’m not around many people, generally, and wear a mask and keep my distance when I am. When my heart became damaged, I was told I now had the heart of an eighty-year-old but that relative youth would help. So here’s hoping.

      6. If you keep the heart of an eighty-year old in good shape and beyond eighty, you’ll be laughing. Not sure what that means anyway. There are thirty-year olds who’d go into cardiac arrest if they tried to run for the bus.

      7. I laughed about the thirty-year-olds. Yeah, I’m not sure why I was told about the eighty-year-olds’ heart. What was I supposed to do, live more than twice my age?

      8. I don’t know. Doctors sometimes say stupid things. Just tell yourself you have the heart of a healthy eighty year old and use it as en excuse for not running for the bus ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a happy new year with no stress if possible.

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