Well, one of them—
You want life to
You’re very particular
About the kind of story—
quirky as an indie film,
but not the dark, cynical kind.
You demand events
that build towards
Sure, you allow for
tinges of tragedy and loss
but they are flecks of black paint
placed just so on the canvas,
there to highlight
the important shapes
of lighter moments.
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When I drive through that remembered town
I slow the car, study faces, postures,
examine how each woman holds her shoulders
wondering whatever happened to her—
that young girl who
once upon a time
once upon this bridge
danced with wild exuberance
in the middle of the bridge, any time of day.
Wearing a Walkman and headphones
she once shimmered and swayed,
lips moving as she sang loud to
the music only she could hear.
She began with instructions on talking—
If you say,
I can’t paint a flower,
the message travels down your arm
into your hand
which is always listening.
After that, it got even more complicated.
Last night, my wonderful writing group read Muriel Rukeyser’s poem, I lived in the first century of world wars. And though she wrote about another time and place, we wrote about, thought about, talked about Ukraine. All last night, all this morning, I’ve been wondering over it—the relief of finally speaking about what is happening in our world. How that relief only helps me, but does nothing for anyone in Ukraine. I remembered another moment from yesterday, not spoken of.
Shopping list of what I imagine as necessities
clutched in my hand because the day, every day,
leaves me so frazzled that I can’t remember
to buy broccoli and oranges and milk
without words on paper to remind me
I am halfway across the parking lot when I see him.
Far down at the end, past the liquor store,
way down where the broken wooden fence
separates the crumbling asphalt lot from the cornfield,
Right there, a man is on his knees next to a rusted blue car
Did he drop something?
Is he petting or rescuing some small animal?
In this small town, I don’t recognize for a minute
what I have only seen in theory,
on screens or in cities far from home.
He kneels on a small rug,
facing east towards Mecca,
As I push open the door, I see the cashier watching too.
We don’t speak of it.
Me, because I am afraid to hear what he might say.
Him, because—Who knows? I’ll never know.
So I am again,
left with silence about what I see,
about what happens around me every day.
Maybe all this silence is why I can’t remember
to buy the broccoli
So here I am again, writing it down
At the stop sign, I finally look up.
To the south, a cloud shaped like Italy
keeps me company on this back road.
Sunrise comes between us as I drive
burnishes the coastline from gray to
deep pink, rose, soft peach
as that boot lengthens from sturdy rain boot to
thigh-high stiletto and I want to send
a thank you note to the world
that today’s reminder
of constant change is gentle,
The dog and I find a black plastic letter N
in the field by the Methodist church.
My town is so small (How small?)
so small I don’t have to wonder,
but know exactly where it belongs.
On Main Street, the sign board outside the VFW hall
reminds us about Saturday’s Euchre tournament—
though the sign doesn’t use the word tournament
because there is only the one N left in the set
and they used it on the top line which, all week, has read
Go Ukrai e!
So, finally, here it is.
Something I can fix.
When I wake
back into the world
it’s still here
as contradictory as ever.
There’s weather all around—
snow fences rolled up
huge crescents line the field
covered in sunlight yesterday
a sudden snow squall today
And the weather inside —
warm glow of yes, of slowed down,
of thank you,
then a gale of irritation blows through—
the too big puppy leaps into my lap
where he doesn’t fit
and I spill my coffee
Oh, here I am again
“We want to stay informed about what’s going on in the world, yet absorbing so much negativity leaves us drained and hopeless…we grow numb and disconnected from the suffering of others….(poetry) helps us dive beneath the surface of our lives, and enter a place of wider, wilder, more universal knowing.”
~from the introduction, by James Crews, to his anthology, How To Love The World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope
In that place, there’s a campfire—
And as we gather, our faces
the scent of happy smoke settles in our hair,
nestles into the fibers of jackets, thick sweaters, woven scarves.
This is the smoke of guitar music, laughter, roasted treats.
Not the smoke of destruction, despair.
Here, Ukraine is not a word for a place
nor is Oregon, Moscow, Edinburgh—
Here, close to the fire someone lit for us,
there is no language barrier,
no theft of land or life, no uniforms.
I hand you the bright green scarf knitted just for you.
Someone offers a blue mug of spiced tea for my empty hands
And we talk far into the good night