My husband Jihong returned home the other night from a month-long visit to China, where he had gone for both personal and professional reasons. Among other things, he enjoyed wonderful reunions with his 80-year-old father, his brothers and their families.
When he got home, we exchanged gifts. Mine for him was small but unique: an elfchen.
(Yeah, I had the same reaction when I first heard the word. What the heck is an elfchen?)
I’d been invited to write an elfchen for an informal gathering of Honors College students, faculty and guests at the South Dakota State University. Everyone who attended the gathering, held the night before Jihong’s return home, was asked to create one of these five-line poems that focuses on a single subject. An elfchen has a very particular structure: the first line has one word; the second line, two; the third line, three; the fourth line, four; the fifth and final line, one word. As I tried this German poetic form on for size, I found myself enjoying it very much. Very Zen.
Because Jihong’s return was imminent, his homecoming became my inspiration. Here’s the elfchen I ended up composing:
Such a small poem, but you can pour so much into that tiny vessel. Maybe you’d like to try writing your own?