Poetry Friday, We Meet Again

October 29, 2010 @ 7:37 am | Filed under:

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.

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11 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Susan Gaissert says:

    Poetry Friday is a good thing. Thanks for reminding me!

  2. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater says:

    Ohhhhh… “Wearing pop’s last forty hours in your earlobes”, “gets as far as Mars before Pa hushes him”, “A girl with a hundred letters spreads them flat like a quilt”. Melissa, Poetry Friday is grateful indeed to have you back. Images fill the sky! Happy Poetry Friday! (Welcome home!)

  3. Erin says:

    This looks like so much fun! I haven’t done much poetry since college, but I like the idea of doing a poem each week.

    I’ve heard of lots of other book memes, but never of “Poetry Friday” before. Thanks for spreading the word about it!

  4. Toby Speed says:

    Oh, Melissa, this is beautiful. You have so well captured the impatience and desire for life that this teenager feels. “The rustling paper rises like a prayer into the sky” is a wonderful ending. I’m so glad you’re back in the groove of Poetry Friday, and that I know you this time around! Welcome back. Have a wonderful weekend and a spooky Hallowe’en.

  5. sarah says:

    I remember that poem, and love it as much now as I did when I first read it.

  6. Blythe says:

    That is one fantastic narrative, and it truly takes flight. Oh, I am so glad I’ve found you.

  7. Mary Ann Scheuer says:

    Melissa, what an evocative poem. I love this line:

    “That fragile paper like the skin
    you peel out of an open eggshell.”

    and then to combine that with the image of the quilt at the end, sent shivers through me. And reminded me of **way back when** writing love letters to my far away boyfriend on airmail stationary. I just don’t think love-text messages will carry the same weight, do you??

    so lovely to visit last weekend and get to know you. Have a fun filled weekend. thanks for sharing a bit of magic and memories tonight

    Mary Ann

  8. Mary Lee says:

    I’m with Amy, loving
    “wearing Pop’s last forty hours
    through your earlobes.”

    I was a lonely pen-pal writer in (what I thought was) a desolate isolated nowhere, so I can relate to the desire for those exotic stories to come to ordinary me in the mailbox.

    Welcome back to PF!

  9. janewilk says:

    Oh, your poem is all kinds of wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing it! So many evocative images to sift through and savor…

  10. Sally Thomas says:

    Again, a lovely poem, Lissa. And thanks so much for the link. The feelings are mutual!

  11. Carlie says:

    Thanks so much for introducing me to the idea of Poetry Friday. I love it.

    Can you tell me where I can find the schedule for who is hosting each week so that I can follow along and play too?