Poem of the Week, by Annie Lighthart

Statue and man, Havana, Cuba

Once, out to dinner with a friend, I noticed a woman sitting at the far opposite end of the restaurant. It was a big, softly-lit place and she was indistinct, but every time I looked at her she made me happy – how she leaned forward to talk, how she tipped her head back when she laughed, the way she tilted her head and kept nodding when her friend was talking. She seemed so focused and appreciative and full of life. I wanted to be her friend.

When we were finished and got up to leave, weirdly, so did the woman and her friend. Then I saw that the back wall of the restaurant was a mirror. The woman I liked so much was…me.

Sometimes one of my students writes something fast, in response to a prompt, that makes them sit back in surprise, like Wait, that just came out of ME? I didn’t even know that was IN me.

We are so much more than we think we are.

The Verge
, by Annie Lighthart

Reason is a fine thing, but remember there are other ways
to live: by instinct or passion, or even,
maybe, by revelation. Try it. Come around again to the verge –
that place of about-to-open, near where we comprehend
and laugh and see. Why shouldn’t something marvelous
happen to you? Take even an occasion like this:
A man reading at night looked up at the window to find
a moose looking in, interested and unafraid
with quiet dark eyes. He reports he has never been the same;
he finds the ungainly and miraculous everywhere.
He said it started the next night in the empty window
as he watched his reflection looking right back through.
He said he saw his own beauty, how even in his same old face
the quiet eyes were curious and ready to be true.

For more information about Annie Lighthart, please check out her website.
Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Aracelis Girmay

A few weeks ago in a long line at the grocery store I felt a small weight against my legs. A toddler was leaning against me with the unassuming peace that comes only in the presence of their parent. Except that I wasn’t this child’s mother –she was in the next line over–and the look of shocked fear in the toddler’s eyes when they realized this was awful to witness.

Then I remembered an outdoor wedding I went to this past summer, where the toddler son of the bride and groom staggered up to me with a big grin and held out his arms to be picked up. The last time I’d seen this child he was an infant. There was no way he recognized me. But there he was, smiling and relaxed in my arms, and somehow this tiny human’s unquestioning trust hurt my heart as much as the other child’s fear. We have to watch over them, is the thought that washed through me, we have to watch over each other, we have to, we have to.

Second Estrangement, by Aracelis Girmay

Please raise your hand,
whomever else of you
has been a child,
lost, in a market
or a mall, without
knowing it at first, following
a stranger, accidentally
thinking he is yours,
your family or parent, even
grabbing for his hands,
even calling the word
you said then for “Father,”
only to see the face
look strangely down, utterly
foreign, utterly not the one
who loves you, you
who are a bird suddenly
stunned by the glass partitions
of rooms.
                                        How far
the world you knew, & tall,
& filled, finally, with strangers.

For more information on poet Aracelis Girmay, please check out her website.

Image by Shaun Tan from his book The Singing Bones.

Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Todd Dillard

Three spots open in our last Zoom workshop of the fall, The Gift of Words, next Saturday, November 20. I’d love to see you there. Check the class out here.

Last week I was walking along a narrow channel between Lake of the Isles and Lake Bde Maka Ska when I came upon a tiny child clinging with both arms extended to the other side of the iron fence. He leaned out over the dark, freezing water, laughing as his father crept toward him, smiling the terrified-parent frozen grin I could feel on my own face. Neither of us wanted to scare the child. Neither of us wanted the child to fall.

A friend without children once told me how terrifying it was for her to hold a baby. How could it NOT be terrifying, was my response. They’re so dinky! Their heads aren’t even all the way closed up, for Godsakes! The only thing they have going for them in the way of survival is their loudness and their occasional cuteness.

Babies themselves, though, don’t know how helpless they are. I wish I still had that fearlessness. To be so tiny, and not to know it or think about it, but just hurl yourself headlong at the world.

Edna, by Todd Dillard

My daughter is bored so I tell her silverfish
are neither silver nor a fish, but a spoon-dull insect
that loves kitchens bathrooms the mouths of children.
Silverfish! Silverfish! she squeals, the word
peeling from her lips and crawling down her legs.
She watches me knead the day’s dough
and asks if Kleenex are used to clean necks.
The TV says a crane collapsed off 34th and
she wants to know if it’s because the crane was thirsty.
Some afternoons we visit the neighborhood pool and
even though she can barely swim my daughter isn’t afraid.
She’s so unafraid it makes me afraid. She loves it
when I pick her up and throw her as far away as possible.
She loves to paddle back and scream Again! Again!
But she loves it most when I swim away as fast as I can,
when my back becomes a shore she’s trying to reach.
My daughter’s named the pool Edna. Sometimes
Edna helps her reach me. When it’s time to go
my daughter says “See you soon, Edna.”
Every day I am terrified in new ways.

For more information about Todd Dillard, please check out his website.
Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Sarah Freligh

Sometimes people email me about Someday, a picture book I wrote for adults, with subject lines like “You made me cry in line at Target.” Once, a parent sent me a Youtube link to their child reading Someday aloud to them. A few pages in, the child, who couldn’t have been more than five or six, broke down in tears and wept the rest of the way through.

Watching, I started crying too. What an old soul child she was, able to look down the tunnel of years into a future where her parents would be gone, and she herself an old woman remembering them.

Wondrous, by Sarah Freligh

I’m driving home from school when the radio talk
turns to E.B. White, his birthday, and I exit
the here and now of the freeway at rush hour,

travel back into the past, where my mother is reading
to my sister and me the part about Charlotte laying her eggs
and dying, and though this is the fifth time Charlotte

has died, my mother is crying again, and we’re laughing
at her because we know nothing of loss and its sad math,
how every subtraction is exponential, how each grief

multiplies the one preceding it, how the author tried
seventeen times to record the words She died alone
without crying, seventeen takes and a short walk during

which he called himself ridiculous, a grown man crying
for a spider he’d spun out of the silk thread of invention —
wondrous how those words would come back and make

him cry, and, yes, wondrous to hear my mother’s voice
ten years after the day she died — the catch, the rasp,
the gathering up before she could say to us, I’m OK.

For more information on Sarah Freligh, please visit her website.