Did you know, she says,
that dolphins will help
an injured animal
reach the surface so it can breathe?
She is six, and she shares
this new knowledge with anyone
she meets—a teacher, a waitress,
a woman in the airport, a man
in line at the store.
Perhaps she is already
that every one of us
is in treacherous waters
in need of a little nudge
from beneath that guides us
Did you know, she says,
I’m tired of wishing longing’s hold would soften,
tired, I’m tired of wishing I could steer.
Though what’s the use in steering when so often
after steering wishward, I’m still here,
yes, here again, same face, same empty pocket,
same despair. But not hysterical—
too tired to rail. Exhaustion’s tourniquet
is good for that, at least. No oracle
worth reading here. They never forecast what
I wish to see. No shaman, no, no priest
worth heeding. They just tell me I should cut
my wishing, and that’s never helped the least.
Of course I wish to shelf these wishes, shelf
the shelf. But everywhere I turn, myself.
This sonnet was inspired by an exercise I did yesterday on the plane on the way home … I saw my good friend Karen Glenn had suggested in her weekly poem email that we might want to write a sonnet with 14 line end words that she gave us … so I did!
You might want to do the same thing … just take the last words off each line and write your way into them. She had a poem about aging vampires … and mine turned out in another voice, too … funny to see what happens when certain words are given to you …
Remember your first kiss? It took me a while to remember mine, but when the memory came back, I was surprised how rich it was. Here’s the poem that came out of it, published today by Silver Birch Press as part of their Me, as a Child Poetry Series.
astonished by waves
turquoise beyond turquoise—
even astonishment deepens
the destination they say—
but perhaps this is closer
in the passion flower
an enormous dark bumble bee—
smelling lemon flowers instead
from how far away
is it swelling even now—
the next wave
down to the beach—
this, too, goes on the altar
amidst palm fronds,
exotic fruits, red hibiscus—
my shoes still size 9
with snorkel and mask
the same world seen richer—
so, too, with poems
all my ideas of what is possible
before I loved you
there was a world—
wasn’t there a world?
after the tsunami
a rising interest in geology
the ship can always slip
into the unpredictable sea—
your hand in my hand
scent of plumeria—
how many other surprise sweetnesses
yet to discover
holding my breath
beneath the waves just to feel
the rising urge to live
watching the white heron
something in me
not one to knock
the morning dove delivers song
through the open window
surrounded by coconuts
I dream of eating
wish that pickpocket
had taken this, too—
sense that something’s missing
beside the new dress
the threadbare dress—
choosing it again
heard this at sunset—
wind in the palm leaves
many times a day
I smooth your hair already
perfectly in place
billions of white shells—
falling in love
with their differences
staring in the mirror
someone else’s face
vague call of the owl—
in me a longing to sing
only one note
through empty branches
more than just a moon rises—
this full gratitude
When you arrive at a home in Finland,
they will ask you to leave your shoes at the door.
They will usher you in where the table is set
with seven kinds of baked goods—berry pastries
and un-iced pound cake, four kinds of cookies,
and braided sweet bread with cardamom. They will ask you
to sit, and regardless what time of day it is,
they will pour you coffee, dark and rich.
With the first cup of coffee, you eat the sweet bread.
With the second cup, you eat cake.
With the third cup of coffee, you eat the pastry.
With the fourth, you try everything else.
It is polite to try everything. It is polite
to go back for more.
The ritual might take all day.
I should like to serve you poems this way,
with your feet bare and with nowhere else to go.
We could nibble the poems together,
feeding some deeper hunger that so seldom
is satisfied, the kind of hunger that cannot
be sated alone. Like the Finns, we would hold
lumps of sugar between our teeth when drinking in
what is dark and bitter. But drink it in we would,
cup after cup. There is so much to be read
between the lines, and we would let
all the unspokens join us at the table.
Not everything must be said. The midnight sun
would not set, and we would go
for a walk, perhaps pick gooseberries,
then rest a while, before
setting the table again.