Tag Archives: love

Living Apart

Last semester I apologized for all the poems I had been presenting with loss in them. In choosing poems, I look for story, dualities, feeling, images, truth and relevant subject to the world we live in. If you’ve ever been in a book group you know the best discussions result when there isn’t full agreement about how delightful the book was. I don’t look for disagreement, but I do like to stir the pot, especially when making a hearty stew.

The following short poem beautifully offers a big story. The layers help pull good writing forth.

Living Apart                                                                                             Lynne Knight

 

My mother is not a person I can ask about sex.

Her body is like a building she has driven past

on the way to somewhere else, not paying

much heed. She knows the major stories,

but that’s about it. Until she fractured it last year,

she had no idea where her pelvis was.

She speaks of her insides, her plumbing.

But she is not a stupid woman,

 

so I can talk to her about need.

She knows about the spirit, having lived apart

from the body for so long. She says I mustn’t be

too greedy. She loves me, but then there is the world.

The cold place, she calls it. If I could talk to her

about sex, I could ask her if she thinks I crave

the spirit like a lover who just uses you,

takes and takes and then leaves—

 

if that’s what she means by my greed.

We all need something, she said the other day

when I visited. She was looking out at the woman

who walks up and down the street all day long

like someone who’s lost her door.

The poor soul, my mother says, and waves,

though the woman can’t see her.

I want to know if the hollow my mother feels then

 

is the same as I feel after sex, like watching

someone lose the body altogether in the distance.

But when I talk about my love, simple things

like how he fixes salmon, a little lime and butter,

cilantro, my mother looks away, as if I’m talking

of sex in disguise. So, instead I sit quiet, like spirit,

thinking if I practice living apart from the body,

my greed for hers won’t break when she’s gone.

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Fast Gas

When I was about 14, I worked for a gas station doing their accounting! It’s clear looking back, that it was work they definitely didn’t want to do and it’s doubtful I was any good at it. I have had work that is traditionally defined as women’s work and jobs traditionally defined as men’s work. Both are freeing in their own ways.

On a different thread, I have also responded unusually to a situation, but have never expressed that as exquisitely as this poem does.

Fast Gas                                                                                 Dorianne Laux

 for Richard

Before the days of self service,

when you never had to pump your own gas,

I was the one who did it for you, the girl

who stepped out at the sound of a bell

with a blue rag in my hand, my hair pulled back

in a straight, unlovely ponytail.

This was before automatic shut-offs

and vapor seals, and once, while filling a tank,

I hit a bubble of trapped air and the gas

backed up, came arcing out of the hole

in a bright gold wave and soaked me — face, breasts,

belly and legs. And I had to hurry

back to the booth, the small employee bathroom

with the broken lock, to change my uniform,

peel the gas-soaked cloth from my skin

and wash myself in the sink.

Light-headed, scrubbed raw, I felt

pure and amazed — the way the amber gas

glazed my flesh, the searing,

subterranean pain of it, how my skin

shimmered and ached, glowed

like rainbowed oil on the pavement.

I was twenty. In a few weeks I would fall,

for the first time, in love, that man waiting

patiently in my future like a red leaf

on the sidewalk, the kind of beauty

that asks to be noticed. How was I to know

it would begin this way: every cell of my body

burning with a dangerous beauty, the air around me

a nimbus of light that would carry me

through the days, how when he found me,

weeks later, he would find me like that,

an ordinary woman who could rise

in flame, all he would have to do

is come close and touch me.

 

Words, Wide Night

A great poem by Carol Ann Duffy. Is it possible to describe love with words? She gets close with imagery, motion, and emotion.

Words, Wide Night                                                   Carol Ann Duffy

 

Somewhere on the other side of this wide night
and the distance between us, I am thinking of you.
The room is turning slowly away from the moon.

This is pleasurable. Or shall I cross that out and say
it is sad? In one of the tenses I singing
an impossible song of desire that you cannot hear.

La lala la. See? I close my eyes and imagine the dark hills I would have to cross
to reach you. For I am in love with you

and this is what it is like or what it is like in words.

Asking for Directions

Linda Gregg is a wonderful poet, but I chose this poem for the storyline. I thought it related well to how one might define what makes a good short story. See the quote below from Sadie Stein:

“A short story, when it’s good, doesn’t draw you into a comforting world; it shakes you up. It’s not … what you want to read before going to sleep: It’s a different kind of intellectual and emotional commitment.”

The poem has wonderful images and disturbing characters and much that is left to decipher and imagine. Those elements in the realm of short stories are golden.

Asking for Directions                                                                       Linda Gregg

 

We could have been mistaken for a married couple

riding on the train from Manhattan to Chicago

that last time we were together. I remember

looking out the window and praising the beauty

of the ordinary: the in-between places, the world

with its back turned to us, the small neglected

stations of our history. I slept across your

chest and stomach without asking permission

because they were the last hours. There was

a smell to the sheepskin lining of your new

Chinese vest that I didn’t recognize. I felt

it deliberately. I woke early and asked you

to come with me for coffee. You said, sleep more,

and I said we only had one hour and you came.

We didn’t say much after that. In the station,

you took your things and handed me the vest,

then left as we had planned. So you would have

ten minutes to meet your family and leave.

I stood by the seat dazed by exhaustion

and the absoluteness of the end, so still I was

aware of myself breathing. I put on the vest

and my coat, got my bag and, turning, saw you

through the dirty window standing outside looking

up at me. We looked at each other without any

expression at all. Invisible, unnoticed, still.

That moment is what I will tell of as proof

that you loved me permanently. After that I was

a woman alone carrying her bag, asking a worker

which direction to walk to find a taxi.

That Half is Almost Gone

This is a great poem for looking at and thinking about assimilation, expectation, and identity.  I began to understand the poem when I explored and found out that peaches originally come from China. Not Georgia or Alabama!

I also wanted a poem that used the page differently.  Here is what the poet says about it:

Marilyn Chin: I like using the page as a “compositional field,” where I could set up a poem as either an internal argument or an argument with the other.

I couldn’t get the right look for the poem on the wordpress page. Here’s a link to how the poem should look:  http://archivio.el-ghibli.org/index.php%3Fid=1&issue=08_33&section=3&index_pos=1&inlingua=t.html

That Half is Almost Gone                            Marilyn Chin

That half is almost gone,

the Chinese half,

the fair side of a peach,

darkened by the knife of time,

fades like a cruel sun.

In my thirtieth year

I wrote a letter to my mother.

I had forgotten the character

for “love.” I remember vaguely

the radical “heart.”

The ancestors won’t fail to remind you

the vital and vestigial organs

where the emotions come from.

But the rest is fading.

                                 A slash dissects in midair,

ai,ai,ai,ai,

more of a cry than a sigh

(and no help from the phoneticist).

You are a Chinese!

My mother was adamant.

You are a Chinese?

My mother less convinced.

Are you not Chinese?

My mother now accepting.

As a cataract clouds her vision,

and her third daughter marries

a Protestant West Virginian

who is “very handsome and very kind.”

The mystery is still unsolved –

the landscape looms

over man. And the gaffer-hatted fishmonger –

sings to his cormorant.

And the maiden behind the curtain

is somebody’s courtesan.

Or, merely Rose Wong’s aging daughter

pondering the blue void.

You are a Chinese – said my mother

who once walked the fields of her dead –

Today, on the 36th anniversary of my birth,

I have problems now

even with the salutation.