I wish to thank my friend and colleague, NL (I'll replace her initials with her name if she permits me to) whose soulful blog Memory of the Heart has reminded me that blog posts may be poems--and whose rich, evocative poems inspire me in of themselves.
I wish to thank the South Shore Scribes, the local writing group I've joined in the last month. Attentive, discerning, and kind, they've encouraged me to get back into the poetry saddle, and the poem I'm about to share is better because of them.
Finally, a cautionary note. In his review* of Robyn Schiff's A Woman of Property in this week's New Yorker, Dan Chaisson explains that "a poem is a place where conscious and unconscious thought, reality and dream, fact and symbol all jostle for attention on the same busy stage. A poet goes where the language leads: this kind of vulnerability is both exhilarating and scary." I'm not there yet, but here's my poem:
Trained his powers on my sprained shoulder,
I gave thanks every wince-free time
I reached for a top-shelf jar.
So when a wayward thigh muscle
Made sitting and standing acts to dread,
Jabbed me each time I urged
Left foot toward left sock,
I remembered Pedro –
How with knowledge and craft and plan
He’d coaxed my stubborn joint to open
A little, and then some more,
And finally full and wide,
As if it had exhaled into a still place
Of warmth and strength.
Pedro stretched and then soothed
Prescribed gentle regimens
To extend the work,
Reconciled feuding bone and tissue.
Progress fed on increments of
Stretch and burn.
Early morning on the living room floor,
Gaze toward the wall with windows.
Except for my breathing, silence.
Besides mine, the only movement:
Gliding gulls drawing arcs
On the neutral, just-dawn sky.
Breathing in, I stretch and hold,
Then keep breathing, stretching,
Feeling for the bar
My whispering muscles set and reset.
Strength and flexibility increase slowly.
My muscles spread and lengthen,
Sometimes relax into a deep place
That feels like destiny.
What started as cure
Begins to feel like a way
To live in my own body.
Coax a cramped writing muscle
To flex and flow?
A blank or scuttled page.
The sense of nothing important or beautiful.
But you begin—
And you stay in that knotted crouch,
Keep at it, keep writing,
Aware that breath’s the sign of spirit,
Whom many shun, for fear of being
Unworthy or unready to create.
Anxious but hopeful,
You keep the pen moving
Across the face of the waters
Because, maybe, one day,
Pen and page will merge, expand,
Unleash a cascade of words
As your mind looks on,
What will become of it,
What it will become: unknown.
But you’ll exhale, relieved
By the flash of fire
And what followed it,
Evidence that something in you
Stirs and yearns.
Post-exhilaration, you’ll keep writing,
In new relationship to yourself,
Your work, your world.