Found Poem in Christmas Letter
From a Former Blond Bombshell
Our abilities shrink daily.
Dave is on his walker.
I am on oxygen.
We are often cranky.
I saw my golden-haired son
leap in a green meadow
and I wrote it down, how he leapt,
scribbled it in a book’s margin.
Later, I sat alone
in a field of goldenrod
and wrote that down too.
And when I went back to my life,
I told Barbara: “I think I wrote a poem.”
I read it to her—pages and pages
to my patient beautiful friend—
dead now for decades.
“Why,” she said, “it’s a hymn to goldenrod.”
I still see her grace, her gravity, her carefulness
as she listened, and, now, I play it all back:
the goldenrod and the listening,
Barbara’s blue eyes, her chin in her hand.
But even today, I can find no words
for that listening.
I need a metaphor,
the way everything sacred does
for what’s unsayable and rare,
for what floats just above speech,
for what lasts: hard and unearned.
Taking Adam to Visit Colleges
At first the Baby: His curls
his petulant lip
his lost pacifiers
his multitudinous desires
his vociferous determination.
He’s off his knees.
He’s on his feet.
He speaks: No, he says, No.
Slobber dribbles down his chin.
Now, the Mother: Her outstretched arms,
her patient brow. Kindness
brimming over, determined
not to swat him, exhausted
by her love, by his allergies,
his lost sweatshirt,
his 6’ 5” tantrums.
He was adorable once,
pink-cheeked and happy, she fantasizes.
She prays he’ll hide his cell phone,
make eye contact.
“I’m tired of this shit,” he bellows.
“My calculus is due Monday.
I’ve lost my book. My head hurts.
I’m going to work at Taco Bell.”
At last, the interviewer,
weary, desperate for a surprise:
The man-child tells him,
“I fell madly in love
with Chopin’s Etude, Opus, #44
the first time I heard it.”
“I don’t just want to study chemistry,”
the boy instructs, “I want
to make something new.”
The man, leaning back in his chair now,
nods, smiles: “Tell me,” he says.
Afterwards: The mother breathes.
The man-child speaks: “That guy
wasn’t too stupid. I’m hungry.”
What Gary Says
“I ain’t never been out of the country, Miss Mary,
and I’m 23 years old. I don’t want to go
to Jamaica or the Bahamas. Everyone
does that. I want to go to China. I want
to walk down the street in that strange country,
where I don’t know no one and no one knows me.
I want to feel myself, on my own,
to look at the strange letters
and not care what they mean. After that,
I can come home and be me. What do you think,
Miss Mary? Tell me, am I crazy to want to go
to China? Tell me?”
One wish may hide another, that picture
flashing on and off in your brain,
just when you think you know who you are,
that picture of your mother, doing it for pay
in your bed, the picture of your father forgetting
you, in a rented room, no school, no food,
no father. And if you could reach
the end of all wishes, would you find China?
A wish that’s cool and strange and welcome.
For surely, one can get to China and be free there,
the China of no past and no future.
The China where all of it never happened.
Mary Ann Larkin is the author of That Deep and Steady Hum (Broadkill River Press) and six poetry chapbooks. Her work has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, New Letters and numerous other journals and anthologies. She co-founded the Big Mama Poetry Troupe, based in Cleveland in the 1970s, which performed from Chicago to New York City. She attended Yaddo and the Jentel Foundation. A co-founder of Pond Road Press with her husband, Patric Pepper, they published Jack Gilbert’s Tough Heaven: Poems of Pittsburgh in 2006.
Image: Enyavar, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons