Sometimes a poem is very literal and serves to capture a moment or experience. Sometimes it’s a metaphor. Sometimes it’s a little bit of both.
Cracks in the plaster
There are cracks in the plaster. Sometimes I stop, and stare, and fret over them. The carpenter says not to worry, the house has good bones, it won’t fall. But I see the cracks, long and jagged, like a tiger raked its claws across flesh and left behind wounds that leak the house’s life. It’s normal, contractors say. Old houses wear and weather and tremble and groan. They get a few stretch marks, a few scars. The structural engineer says there’s no need for him to come. It’s just cracks, not an imminent risk of collapse.
So we patch and conceal and hide them, pretending they were never there. Out of sight, out of everyone’s mind except mine. When I run my fingers over the fresh paint, I can still feel them, faintly, leaving behind a ridge like a scabbed-over scrape. I wonder at the cause, the root behind the symptom, and ask without answer if it will continue to worsen, if there’s a hidden disease that will eat through studs and joists and beams like cancer through skin and organs and bones until the ceilings crumble and the walls buckle like weary knees, until it’s too late, the whole structure beyond repair.
All because we dismissed the cracks in the plaster.
Small moments can make big memories. One such small moment flitted past, hummingbird-quick, thirteen years ago. At the time, the exchange lasted seconds. But it has hovered in the peripheral vision of my memory, causing me to glance sidelong at it, time and again.
In the Arboretum
He plunges his nose into a lilac cluster and inhales, drinking the scent into his lungs the way a marathoner gulps water a dozen miles into the race, as if the dainty petals’ perfume is the sustenance of life.
He catches my gaze and quirks a brow. “Yeah, I stop to smell flowers. So what?” he says, words a soft-tipped arrow fired from a smile’s bow. He doesn’t realize he owes no explanation to me,
Because while he admires the flower, I admire his attention to the bloom.
Two volumes on my summer reading list included Good Poems, American Places compiled by Garrison Keillor, and Amanda Lovelace’s collection The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One. Both books have inspired me to dabble in poetry again.
As always, I can’t promise my poetry is any good. But there’s joy in the writing.
A flock of blackbirds billowed over a rural stretch of Route 23. Starlings, or grackles maybe, thousands of black pixels against a blue canvas of sky, shaping into a half-formed image before dissolving like a dream escaping waking’s grasp.
I pulled my car to the shoulder to watch them dance to the metronome of my hazard lights, searching for meaning in their pattern as they swooped, ascended, condensed, separated. Eventually they blended into the tree line, and I wondered if maybe
the meaning was never in the pattern, but only in the flight.
It’s been a while since I dabbled in poetry. But the mood struck this morning, and this one flowed out.
The Grade School Rule
In grade school, teachers always told us to use pencils. “Ink is too permanent,” they would warn. “Use your pencil. Especially for math and spelling.” They expected mistakes that we would have to remove, and they didn’t want us to ruin the page.
Life doesn’t listen to the teachers’ advice. We are handed a pen at birth to start scrawling our stories. Sometimes, maybe, a chapter can be salvaged by scribbling out errant words. But the blemish on the page – an ugly dark slash of ink – remains, unable to be erased.