One of my biggest takeaways from Kidlitcon was a resolution to get back in the groove of participating in Poetry Friday. I was a regular, in the beginning. Somewhere between babies #5 and #6 I seem to have fallen out of the habit, mainly because I’m no longer entirely sure when Friday is.
Twitter tells me today is Friday, so that’s good enough for me.
Here are some things to do on this fine Poetry Friday:
• Take a trip to The Poem Farm.
• Read Laura Purdie Salas’s account of the wonderful Poetry Friday panel that so inspired the crowd at KidlitCon.
• Go see Karen, because her Poetry Friday offerings have never failed me yet.
• Visit my new friend Toby Speed for this week’s Poetry Friday roundup!
And here’s my offering. To celebrate my return to regular PF participation, here’s a poem of my own. I shared it here about a year ago, but not on Poetry Friday. I wrote it during grad school before I shifted my MFA focus to fiction. It was published in the Summer/Fall 1994 issue of Quarterly West. (Some of you may remember how delighted I was, afterward, to discover that the editor of that issue was none other than Sally Thomas, who had become—and remains—one of my favorite bloggers.)
Lena, Waiting for the Mail
This time of day the split-rail fence
lays its long shadow in the road,
as far from the house as it ever gets.
Straight and mean, that shadow,
like train tracks heating up in the sun.
I’m always watching for the train.
Plenty of shadows in this yard, but no shade.
Janie and Mack crouching in the spare grass
behind me pour the dogs’ water out for mud.
The ground sucks it in, little snaps and hisses
in my ear. Eleanor wrote last time her ears
are pierced, had it done when she was four,
I can’t believe it, and she got diamonds
on her sweet sixteen. That what girls
like Eleanor call it. I bet it feels sweet to be them, curled
and black-lashed, wearing Pop’s last forty hours
through your earlobes. Davy, shouting, runs
three times around the house, gets as far as Mars
before Pop hushes him. Mack orders him to help
with the mudcastle. “Lena,” Mama calls,
“I wish you’d keep them quiet.”
Patrick McFadden wrote to say he “freefalls
from airplanes for fun.” He’s the only boy I write.
Pop thinks “Pat” is a girl. Pat loves the color blue, the smell
of coffee, and Bruce Springsteen. This mailman
will never show. Anita’s letter is due today,
and maybe Sabine Heyl’s. That fragile paper like the skin
you peel out of an open eggshell. Purple ink
like you’d write magic spells with—Janie’s blinking
back tears. Mama’ll kill me. “You kids come away
from the house,” I say. “I’ll tell you a story.” Can’t I tell
myself a good one: A girl with a hundred letters
spreads them flat like a quilt. She sticks them together
with Elmer’s since sealing wax is in short supply.
She climbs on and waves her hands in a spell.
The rustling paper rises like a prayer into the sky.
(Originally published in Quarterly West, No. 39, Summer/Fall 1994, Salt Lake City, UT.)
This week’s Poetry Friday roundup can be found at The Writer’s Armchair.