Friday, May 13, 2011

I Wish I'd Written This

Have you ever read a poem and just wagged your head at wishing you had written that piece?  Happens to me all the time.  So, Robb said I could start sharing some of my favorite head-waggers with you all.  Feel free to comment on what you like (or don't like) about these poems (to be posted on Fridays).  I hope your heads wag as often as mine.

Since Sunday was Mother's Day in the U.S., how about we start off with my favorite Mama poem.


I have no answer to the blank inequity
of a four-year-old dying of cancer.
I saw her on TV and wept
with my mouth full of meatloaf.

I constantly flash on disasters now;
red lights shout Warning. Danger.
everywhere I look.
I buckle him in, but what if a car
with a grille like a sharkbite
roared up out of the road?
I feed him square meals,
but what if the fist of his heart
should simply fall open?
I carried him safely
as long as I could,
but now he's a runaway
on the dangerous highway.
Warning. Danger.
I've started to pray.

But the dangerous highway
curves through blue evenings
when I hold his yielding hand
and snip his minuscule nails
with my vicious-looking scissors.
I carry him around
like an egg in a spoon,
and I remember a porcelain fawn,
a best friend's trust,
my broken faith in myself.
It's not my grace that keeps me erect
as the sidewalk clatters downhill
under my rollerskate wheels.

Sometimes I lie awake
troubled by this thought:
It's not so simple to give a child birth;
you also have to give it death,
the jealous fairy's christening gift.

I've always pictured my own death
as a closed door,
a black room,
a breathless leap from the mountaintop
with time to throw out my arms, lift my head,
and see, in the instant my heart stops,
a whole galaxy of blue.
I imagined I'd forget,
in the cessation of feeling,
while the guilt of my lifetime floated away
like a nylon nightgown,
and that I'd fall into clean, fresh forgiveness.

Ah, but the death I've given away
is more mine than the one I've kept:
from my hands the poisoned apple,
from my bow the mistletoe dart.

Then I think of Mama,
her bountiful breasts.
When I was a child, I really swear,
Mama's kisses could heal.
I remember her promise,
and whisper it over my sweet son's sleep:

     When you float to the bottom, child,
     like a mote down a sunbeam,
     you'll see me from a trillion miles away:
     my eyes looking up to you,
     my arms outstretched for you like night.


From Mama's Promises, published by Louisiana State University Press. Copyright © 1985 by Marilyn Nelson.

Click on the title to go to poets.org's posting of Mama's Promise.  Click on the poet's name to learn more about Marilyn Nelson.

5 comments:

  1. oh thank you for sharing this wonderful poem, Dan. (she says, wagging her head.) thank you.

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  2. I did. I wagged my head. I wished I had written it. This is one of the best and truest poems I have ever read. Thanks for posting it, Danny! I totally love it. It inspires.

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  3. Is that last line not the epitome of maternal love? Wondrous! Thanks for sharing this, Danny!

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  4. I wagged, simply for having read it, thankful for the opportunity.

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  5. Wow such a touching and eloquently written poem.

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