I often arrive at a boundary that leaves me at the gate at a time to fish or cut bait or just wait at the border of this or that for better or worse perform or rehearse begin again or end— on my mark to there, at the finish from where.
And that’s when I need some now-or-never word, as when Jesus sat with the woman at the well waiting for a snarl of men to stone her, and reach out to her writing something in the sand for her for them and wrote again, then spoke his boundary-breaking words piercing to the bone that would kill their will and let them all go home.
I was, no kidding, a visiting writer in a kindergarten recently, And the children asked me many wry and hilarious questions, Among them is that your real nose? and can you write a book About a ruffed grouse, please? But the one that pops back into My mind this morning was what do poems do? Answers: swirl Leaves along sidewalks suddenly when there is no wind. Open Recalcitrant jars of honey. Be huckleberries in earliest January, When berries are only a shivering idea on a bush. Be your dad For a moment again, tall and amused and smelling like Sunday. Be the awful wheeze of a kid with the flu. Remind you of what You didn’t ever forget but only mislaid or misfiled. Be badgers, Meteor showers, falcons, prayers, sneers, mayors, confessionals. They are built to slide into you sideways. You have poetry slots Where your gills used to be, when you lived inside your mother. If you hold a poem right you can go back there. Find the handle. Take a skitter of words and speak gently to them, and you’ll see.
Your encouraging words of description feel just right as I struggle to be heard, and work to remember and depict this long summer month, which approached like a soot-stained messenger fueling his miner’s light with pain and grief and fear. And yet what dynamite remains here for me, defiant in a laughing gas chamber, determined to retain a personal trainer, a shortened-life coach.
Let there be light! A flash, a bolt, a brilliant blaze that puts the kibosh on chaos. Let light shine on width, breadth, depth, a dazzle to illuminate all matter everywhere. Let it glint gloriously off ocean wave, sea swell, a brooklet’s little ripples.
Let fish rejoice in it fantastically, the fur of fox, cat, cougar, coyote be haloed. Let light’s hot pulse pull prairie grass, kinnikinnik up, up to verdant growth, turn grain from green to gold. In every garden everywhere let peonies, nasturtiums and
preposterous begonias unfold. Let every butterfly, bat, bird bathe in radiance. Let it pour mornings into breakfast bowls, fill empty cups to overflowing. At evening let light’s long plumes linger: violet and vivid on every atom of creation.
When darkness closes in, shrouding the valley floor, let sky be spangled still, lit with the glow of meteors, the murky milky way, the white hot stars. O Light of life, Light of the wobbling world: your splendor does not tarnish,
will not be overcome by random avalanche, smart missile, guns, flood, smoke of forest fire. Your warmth will melt the iron grip of fear. A stone-cold guarded grave can never hold you.