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.