Poem of the Week, by Mike White

IMG_0696A few years ago, from my front porch, I watched an enormous, dark turtle labor its way across Emerson Avenue. It was winter. Snow and ice and slush. A giant turtle? Then the scene resolved itself; the turtle was not a turtle but an old man who had fallen and was trying to crawl to the curb.

I ran out and helped him up and got his walker securely situated. He refused my offer of a ride and carried on down the sidewalk. Sometimes the world turns itself inside out for a few seconds and you stand there entirely confounded. All you can do is wait, and wonder, and let yourself be amazed.

 

Wind, by Mike White

Not a remarkable wind. 
So when the bistro’s patio umbrella 
blew suddenly free and pitched 
into the middle of the road, 
it put a stop to the afternoon. 

Something white and amazing 
was blocking the way. 

A waiter in a clean apron 
appeared, not quite 
certain, shielding his eyes, wary 
of our rumbling engines. 

He knelt in the hot road, 
making two figures in white, one 
leaning over the sprawled, 
broken shape of the other, 
creaturely, great-winged, 
and now so carefully gathered in.

 

 

 

For more information about Mike White, please check out his website.

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Poem of the Week, by Lucille Clifton

IMG_E8618On the surface there’s little in common between Lucille Clifton and me besides the fact that we both grew up in far upstate New York (which, as all upstaters know, is in fact a deep and powerful bond). But ever since I read The Lost Baby Poem in my early twenties, a poem that filled me with so much sorrow and pain and understanding that it felt as if I were somehow embedded in it, she has been a kindred spirit.

She writes an homage to her big hips that makes me want to shake my skinny ones. She writes about her cancer diagnosis and my hands cover my breasts. She writes what did i see to be except myself and that, too, I feel in my bones. 

 

 

Won’t You Celebrate With Me, by Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

 

For more information about Lucille Clifton, please click here.
 
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Poem of the Week, by Maggie Smith

IMG_4264Would your life be worse then than it is right now? is a question to ask yourself when you wake up every day in fear and dread of something that hasn’t happened but might happen. Something you fight and fight and work and work to prevent happening, to you or to someone you love. Foreclosure. Suicide. Recurrence of cancer. Loss of a job, a friend, a romance.

At some point the panic might be so huge that it takes over your life, and what then? Then a balance has been achieved. The thing you so fear has, in the fearing of it, destroyed your peace, your health, your daily existence. So. If the thing you fear actually happened, would your life be worse than it is right now? 

Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe something else would rush in once the anticipatory dread and panic are finally gone, something huge and unfamiliar: relief. This poem brought so many feelings flooding through me.

 

At the End of My Marriage, I Think of Something My Daughter Said about Trees, by Maggie Smith 

When a tree is cut down, the sky’s like 
finally, and rushes in. 

Even when you trim a tree, 
the sky fills in before the branch 

hits the ground. It colors the space blue 
because now it can.

 

 

 

 

For more information about Maggie Smith, please check out her website.

 

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Poem of the Week, by Sharon Olds

IMG_2137This past week: the friends in a group discussion admitting they can barely ask what the honorarium is because it feels so selfish. The friend who wonders can I back out of this event in NYC because I just noticed there’s no travel reimbursement and I literally can’t afford it but I can’t stand to let anyone down. The friends who say they know it’s their own fault for feeling ashamed of their bodies and why can’t they just ignore all the ads for liposuction, juvaderm, lip filler, neck filler, breast augmentation, tummy tucks, and vaginal rejuvenation.

The first time I read the poem below, many years ago when my children were tiny, my heart pounded and I was glad to be alone. It felt as if anyone who saw my visceral reaction would know something elemental about me, something I couldn’t stand for them to know about the hugeness of my drive and determination, and how shameful that was, how selfish. It is so much harder for some people than others to stand tall, to take up space in this world, to say no, to stop apologizing. Lines from this poem still filter through me like blood. 

 

 

 

Station, by Sharon Olds

Coming in off the dock after writing,
I approached the house,
and saw your long grandee face
in the light of a lamp with a parchment shade
the color of flame.

An elegant hand on your beard. Your tapered
eyes found me on the lawn. You looked
as the lord looks down from a narrow window
and you are descended from lords. Calmly, with no
hint of shyness you examined me,
the wife who runs out on the dock to write
as soon as one child is in bed,
leaving the other to you.

Your long
mouth, flexible as an archer’s bow,
did not curve. We spent a long moment
in the truth of our situation, the poems
heavy as poached game hanging from my hands.

 

 

 

For more information about Sharon Olds, please click here.

 

 

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Poem of the Week, by Dean Young

IMG_3673As a kid desperation used to fill me for more, more, more, but I couldn’t put words to the panicky feeling beyond once telling my mother that “I don’t want to be normal. I don’t want a normal life,” knowing even then that “normal” wasn’t exactly the right word. 

More of everything is what I wanted: more sky, more wind, more space, more freedom more travel more music more poems more love more life. As I type these words my own voice in my own head keeps whispering more in italics. 

Every line of the poem below, hopping and skipping from more to more, skimming through a life and dipping down into the wild hunger and hurt and joy bursting out of it, feels familiar to me. Then the last line made me laugh out loud, and all I could think was: Yeah. This guy wants everything, too.

 

New Restrictions, by Dean Young

It doesn’t matter how many
Wallace Stevens poems you’ve memorized
or if you had sex in the graveyard
like an upside-down puppet
or painted your apartment red
so it feels like sleeping inside a heart
or the trees were frozen with ravens
which you sent pictures of to everyone you know
or your pie dough’s perfect
or you once ran a sub-5-minute mile
or you’re on the last draft
of your mystery novel and still
don’t know if the vicar did it
or every morning that summer
you saw a fox stepping through the fog
but it got no closer
or once you helped drag a deer
off the road by the antler
sit blinked
or which song comes from which side
of your mouth as you drive
all night all night all night
or how deep and long you carry
a hitch in your breath after crying
or shot a man in Tennessee
or were so happy in France
or left your favorite scarf in a café,
the one with the birds and terrible art
or the Klimt
or you call your mother once a week
even after she’s dead
or can’t see a swan without panic
or have almost figured out
what happened to you as a child,
urge, urge, nothing but urge
or 600 daffodils
or a knife in the glove box
or a butterfly on a bell,
you can’t park here.

 

For more information on Dean Young, please click here.
Twitter and Instagram: @alisonmcgheewriter