a poem is still

There was no reason for me to fall in love with poetry that first semester in high school. We sat around a fireplace, notebooks ready, pens hopeful. But we didn’t write anything right away.  Charles told us that to write poetry you must read good poetry. He told us to read poems twice, once for sound, once for meaning, that the better question is always, how does this poem mean? and not the elusive “what” or “why” that the poet so often slides by you, unconscious as water, so that it isn’t until you read the poem years later that you realize it must have meant something about faith, or something about how humans hide from each other, and in hiding, are revealed. Charles told us we would read much more than we would write that semester, that to be a poet you must be a listener to the beauty and weight of words.

Oh, I want to be a poet.

Preston sends me prompts in the morning, ideas and quotes and snippets of things he must have overheard or imagined while he drinks a dry cappuccino before work. He doesn’t give me more than a sentence, a moment, a question, but he tells me quiet in the afternoon where we sit side by side in the ordinary, he says, you are a poet, Hilary Joan. 

But being a poet is stillness incarnate, wild enough to sing freedom to a shuttered heart, soft enough to whisper over you in the desperation of another morning of unknown. Being a poet is love. Being a poet is listening.

I’ve been trying to write this post for so long, to confess the dream, that I want to be a poet –

and maybe I need the stillness first.

Maybe being quiet here, on this blog, is about learning to listen again for the good words of others. Maybe it is not just the poems that must be still –

maybe it must be me.

So I will write – words on the page like this – and pray.

Childhood Friend,

It was a happenstance morning
looking out my window
while coffee dripped behind me.
My husband slept to the quick
rhythm of water. You ran
past – a ghost? A memory.

I am no longer young enough
to drink from the well in your backyard,
to prance in white dresses, splash pink flowered
selves along a sloping hill behind your house,

but remember with me once
how we whispered to each other
clutching teacups in the forbidden living room,
grownup ladies dressed as children,
children dressed as they someday dreamed.

You wore lace before
we knew its name.
Our friendship grew barefoot and wild,
your mother planted roses the year
we forgot.

Seeing you again, out my window
as it rained, your figure cutting through
the road, the morning,
no longer young.

I’ll be listening. I’ll be still.




3 thoughts on “a poem is still

  1. This, THIS: children dressed as they someday dreamed

    And yes, you are a poet. You can’t help but be.

    It is not what you do, it is who you are.

    But stillness helps the poems come.

    I shall read Rilke in blessing of your quiet.

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