Tonight I picked up my Sara Teasdale book of love poems to re-read one of my favorites. And you know, one thing led to another and I read the whole book. It’s amazing how the same literature can have such a different impact on you from one phase of life to the next. My favorites were no longer my favorites and some new lines stood out to me this time. And one thing led to another and I was reading Billy Collins’ Sailing Alone Around the Room and laughing at his little jokes and enjoying him so much more than I did in college.
The other day I found a poem in my documents that I started a year ago. So I finished it (or I guess just worked on it, since poems never seem to be totally finished for me). Here it is.
sweet like grass
warms my cheek,
skin smooth and
ripe like a plum
—is cool and
as narrow as your nose,
Searching for me,
like blue marbles
rimmed with feathery lashes
You curl your toes
stinky baby feet
Your pointer finger
traces my mouth,
pushes past to
teeth. I taste,
close my teeth on it,
a whole-face smile
like sun in summer.
Like I said, not finished, but it’s on paper (figuratively). I never feel like I can catch those exquisite moments in words. It’s impossible, but I guess it’s fun to try. At least those who know Rose well would understand this poem.
Here’s a piece of Books by Collins that I really loved:
From the heart of this dark, evacuated campus
I can hear the library humming in the night,
a choir of authors murmuring inside their books
along the unlit, alphabetical shelves,
Giovanni Pontano next to Pope, Dumas next to his son,
each one stitched into his own private coat,
together forming a low, gigantic chord of language.
Perfect, right? The poem goes on, but that first segment really excited me. I loved my BYU library. It felt like a magical place at night. Maybe I resented the space unknowingly when I had to tie myself to one of the desks to finish a paper. But I loved it too. In fact, I wish I could walk into it right now, my student ID in hand, and choose from millions of books and fall into a chair to read.
So tonight has become a poetry night. Maybe next I’ll pick up Natasha Saje’s Red Under the Skin. There are so many lines in her poems that make me think, “Yes, exactly!” Isn’t that what makes poems so great? When they can say exactly what we think and feel in a beautiful or interesting or just unique way? Okay, you know what… I’m just going to go ahead and post one her poems right now. Hang on till the end. It’s my favorite part.
Dien Zug kenne keinen Bahnhof,
my mother would tell me,
astonished at how much
I could consume of whatever
pleased me: ice cream or chocolates,
and later, smoked salmon, Westphalian ham.
Your train knows no station.
Now that I’m an adult, my train knows
several stations, though sometimes
it’s a greed express, ripping through
an entire apple tart,
a quart of blueberries,
a pound of Camembert.
All children are greedy
until they learn to curb unattractive habits,
like chewing fingernails or picking noses.
From Old English, graedig: Beowulf didn’t worry
about how he looked chowing down
a leg of ox or a few pheasants, whole.
A friend taps his wife’s frail wrist: honey,
wouldn’t sorbet be better than ice cream?
Some trains idle and weeds then grow between their tracks.
Once for two weeks I ate nothing,
drinking only mineral water.
I imagined myself light as an airmail letter;
a man’s hands could encircle my waist.
I climbed flights of stairs one at a time,
panting. The memory makes me see myself
stare at the shape of a woman
who swims in my pool: her thighs
have the heft of a good dictionary.
She’s never sick,
she can lift a lawn mower over the hedge,
she’s the only conductor on her train,
and she knows which stations
are worth stopping for.