I don’t go in for New Year’s resolutions, but I do have a tradition of looking back to look forward. I make a little list of what was naughty and nice about the old year, with an eye to better visioning the brightening horizon. Sometimes, my year-end list is full of places, events, decisions, and experiences. 2009 will forever be marked by people — and poetry. In ways actual and metaphorical, poetry punctuates not only how I met certain luminous personages in this passing year, but how I shall endeavor to befriend more in the next.
If I’m lucky, 2010, will be memorable as a first leap through the gateway of a habit I hope to form and pass around the circle for time and tides to come. I confess already to being a little addicted to the intoxicating effect of great poems. They leave me dizzy, disoriented, even dangerously euphoric. I used to just inhale, letting the words waft off the page and fly around in my head. Now things have become more serious. I’m mainlining: drawing them right into the bloodstream to wrap about the muscles, wind around the sinews, mixing in my own voice and movements as I learn to recite them aloud.
Memorizing poems for performance — whether an audience of one or many – is an act of acquiesce. The words yield to one’s capture, just as one surrenders to their raid on private emotion. The intimacy born of knowing a poem by heart elevates the experience for the listener, as well. A certain unlocking is not only witnessed, but felt directly. And what is it that’s being revealed? The essential elements of human experience – joy, anguish, love, loss, reverence, fear – viewed through the lens of our self same souls.
I believe it was George Bradley, who said that poems give the impression not of discovering something new, but of remembering something we’ve forgotten. Poems are ever present within us. What a lovely concept.
Here is my notion: when the essence of a poem’s rare beauty lives inside of us, it’d be a crime to deny that instant recognition — to others and to ourselves – so, it’s time to start sharing. Where to begin? When I think of those who likely have the most to share, yet the fewest opportunities to do so, I think of the elderly. I plan to spend a good bit of 2010, in assisted living communities, reciting verse, listening to stories, and learning a little more about what life has meant to people walking this familiar life down matchless paths. Oh, the places we’ll go…who wants to come along?
Kirsten is one of the gifts I found in 2009. I want to share my friend with you. Her first collection of poems has won the Starting Gate Award, and is due out early in the New Year. Treat yourself to a copy. http://www.finishinglinepress.com/NewReleasesandForthcomingTitles.htm
Traces of A Woman
By Kirsten Jones Neff
I stand in my daughter’s dark room
and watch the outline of her breath,
the slightest up, the slightest down,
arms and hair across the sheets.
Her mouth rests open.
I can see traces of a woman
in the lips and dignity of her chin.
She is my height now. It is mostly in the legs,
long and thin, angled out from under the blanket,
the white arc of her slender foot, toes falling
into a dancer’s pointe. This milk cream body
is still hers now, only hers, and the dreams
that run in twitches along her cheek, are hers as well.
I am scared of the stones that will be thrown
into the still pool of her, of who will touch her,
cling to her, harm her or possess her.
I want to lay my own calloused body
over hers, a shell to her egg, and wait
that way, breathing, slight up, slight down,
until she’s fully grown and strong.