For the podcast Sugar Calling, Cheryl Strayed interviews authors during quarantine. In a recent episode, Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the United States, read and recited poetry. Collins is a poet who reminds me that I like poetry. In the podcast, he quoted Irish poet Eavan Boland, “Poetry begins where language starts: in the shadows and accidents of one person’s life.”
If ever there was a time that felt like a shadowy accident, it’s now. Thus, I can’t write anything resembling advice. Dozens of COVID-19 think pieces exist or will soon, and I can’t do that to you or to myself. Also, I have no sourdough tips.
So instead of a blog, I’ve written a poem, followed by some poems I enjoy.
there is poison ivy in my garden bed.
I bought mulch to tamp it down
but it continues sprouting.
The roots stretch into the soil, infinite
They smell like poison,
like they should come with a label with a skull on it.
I need to dig out
the poison roots
to get rid of them.
It will take years.
Hosta emerge from the earth
like tiny miracles.
How did they survive a winter
waiting all that time,
bulbs with dead leaves buried in snow?
How did they fear their own emergence,
gobbled by rabbits?
We are the bulbs.
We cannot emerge, yet.
On a positive note,
life as a woman in public
has never been better.
With the popularity of physical boundaries,
nobody brushes my body
at the grocery store
and no one shouts out the car window
at my masked face
I have planted
forget-me-nots, salvia, zinnia, lavender
tomato, cucumber, basil, red chard
arugula, pea pods, cilantro, jalapeño
cosmos, hosta, phlox
The seeds sprout in my sunroom
where it smells like photosynthesis
like spare oxygen,
like the plants have exhaled and are waiting for my next breath
Here I’ve assembled my favorites –
plants, mandala painted rocks,
bird feeder outside the window.
My son in the next room,
water evaporating from his skin,
lingering from our water fight in the grass.
Next to the mudroom,
he stretched blue paint
across a picture of a T. Rex.
“I love painting,” he said,
and the paintbrush scratched across the canvas with the most delicious sound.
I’ll leave you with some poems that I enjoy and feel relevant right now.
Don’t Hesitate by Mary Oliver
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
The Uses of Sorrow by Mary Oliver:
(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.