February 19, 2013 @ 7:19 pm | Filed under: Poetry
Let me memorize this—
The rain just beginning,
the light soft, too gray,
a gloaming at noon.
Flowers etched in light on the green lampshade,
fern leaves lit from within.
The pictures on the wall are crooked.
The seams of this quilt are crooked.
Above the large book, the crown of her head,
the quick lifting and furrowing,
the voice at once gravelly and high.
She is sitting on my feet.
Crooked quilt making a valley between
the big and little hills of our bent knees.
It’s all I have to bring today, she reads,
this, and my heart be—be—besides.
She, too, is forever expecting bees.
The fog’s little cat feet make her laugh.
And the touch of dreams is over all.
And the touch of dreams
She likes this so much she reads it twice,
each word softer, disappearing
behind her serious face.
is over all
I see how she’s drawing the words inside herself.
Filling herself up with fog and clover
and the dusk and the dark
and nobody and the livelong June.
Her small toes twitch
little cat feet
her eyes peer over the page.
We should have a poem house, she says.
Later she’ll write it: THE POWEM HAWS.
She’s six, she spells like Winnie the Pooh.
A powem haws with powems on the walls,
this one first—
It’s all I have to bring.
Later the touch of dreams.
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February 8, 2013 @ 6:23 pm | Filed under: Poetry
I loved this post at Barb Riley’s Written Not With Ink about “white space” in art and poetry, “the things unfinished and things left unsaid.”
“I’ve been spending more time reading poetry lately, and finding myself drawn to the absence of explanation on the page. In an age where answers are one millisecond away by the gods of google, my soul longs to contemplate the unknown.”
The gods of google, indeed, our magic answer machine supplying the ends of questions even before we’ve finished asking them.
The post reminded me of a poem from my MFA thesis, which I’ll share here because it’s Friday, and Friday is for poems. The challenging thing, for me, about sharing poems I wrote long ago is resisting the temptation to get in there and tinker some more, but I’ll resist and present this as I wrote it at age 23.
Still new at this, I cannot grant my hand
The freedom Porter’s “stroke” and “glide” suggest;
I’m scared to wreck a curve with poor command
Of pencil. “Loosen up!” he barks. “It’s just
A sketch. In here there’s no such thing as ‘messed
Up’.” But that bristly frown belies
Him. I lose the body’s edge. And paper snags
My lead; now nervous dashes fleck the sides
Of my drawing’s head. Above her sausage legs
And torso jut two arms like long thin bags
Of bread, lumpy and stiff. At least—thank God—
The model’s clothed. Too much, to spoil the grace
The undraped body wears.
……………………………………..Start over. See not
The model but the shape she prints on space,
My gentle dream instructor guides. Just trace
The edge your eye perceives. Porter fades
Like graphite dust—for just a flicker,
I can see it—No—It’s lost. He strides
To easel, flashes out an arm. The figure
Rippling from his charcoal pencil lifts her
Perfect arms and twirls and sings, “Like this!
Like this!” That’s it. I’ve had enough.
I snatch up my things.
My stool rings out against the floor,
Porter’s like a grizzly in the doorway.
Something shifts—the light, my gaze—
I’ve a sudden view of him an empty white,
A pattern cut from cloth of students, tables, wall.
The blank slivers of his beard pierce the quiet air.
Astonishing and lovely is the shape he’s left behind.
This week’s Poetry Friday roundup appears at A Teaching Life.
October 29, 2010 @ 7:37 am | Filed under: Poetry
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.