Photograph copyright K Hari Krishnan (Wikipedia)

Lost and found

Photograph copyright K Hari Krishnan (Wikipedia)
Photograph copyright K Hari Krishnan (Wikipedia)

(Disclaimer: I am not a poet and don’t write poems. This was an accident from 2006; Peter Griffin reminded me yesterday of its existence. It does not scan, and it has ellipses, but it was written when Pete sent several of us James Tate’s Dream On. Keeping it here as a reminder that even bad verse can sometimes make me smile.)

And some people
Write poems every day of their lives
But not on the page, not on the screen…

In the kitchen for friends
Who dropped by just like that
They slice green limes open
And squeeze the heart of summer
Into tall glasses (add sugar, and mint,
Crushed lightly
For the scent, and stir)
In those cool heavy glasses, inherited from
Their mothers or bought at a crafts sale
From the man with the mole on his face,
they carry out a clinking tray
Of sonnets.

And some men
Write poems as they teach
Their children to swim
To step up to the high diving board
Alone in a world of watery echoes
To plunge from that point of stillness
Into the depths of the pool
With chlorine prickling their eyes
And their father saying
You can, you can do it
Come up for air
Now, they hear the slight tremor
the pride and the worry
In the voice of a man learning
to dive into the strange rushing waters
Of parenthood, they hear
the trembling alaap and how it
will suddenly
Swell into a raag.

And some women are poems;
They can’t help it,
As they wipe their hands
Briskly on a corner of that
Tatty sari pallu, as they
Push the hair out of their eyes
And poise their hands over the keyboard
Ready to disappear
Into stories or charts, statistics or art,
You recognize in the way
They hold their heads, to an angle,
Curious and measuring,
The way they flex their wrists,
A dancer’s movement lost on
The chopping board where garlic
Diminishes into precise slivers,
The way they let their laughter
Travel out of their bellies
Into the world,
You see in the many lines
Lightly etched on their faces
The hard-won freedom
Of blank verse.

It’s not just the page
That contains a poem,
It’s not just the words
That make poetry, but us,
Listening to the slow cawing of crows
Against the lonely dinosaur
calls of the trains at night,
Watching the local drunk stagger home
At 3 a.m., singing old Raj Kapoor songs,
feeling the touch of freshly washed
towels as they tap politely on our backs,
knowing that these, too, are poems.

The sunbird might live in an empty lot
or might live in the trees
or make his home among the dahlias
in the far corner of the garden–
anywhere.
So long as we can hear the rustling
Of his feathers, feel his little urgent darts
In our veins.

2 thoughts on “Lost and found”

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