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Poetry Thread Check In

Happy Easter/Passover/Spring everyone! How is your personal poetry challenge going, if that’s something you are doing?

2 poems to share today, both by a writer I just discovered.

I Am the Coward Who Did Not Pick up the Phone


I am the coward who did not pick up the phone

I am the coward who did not pick up the phone, so as never to know.
So many clocks and yardsticks dumped into an ocean.


I am the ox which drew the cart full of urgent messages straight into
the river, emerging none the wiser on the opposite side, never looking
back at all those floating envelopes and postcards, the wet ashes of
some loved one’s screams.

How was I to know?

I am the warrior who killed a sparrow with a cannon. I am the
guardian who led the child by the hand into the cloud, and emerged
holding only an empty glove. Oh —


the digital ringing of it. The string of a kite of it, which I let go of.
Oh, the commotion in the attic of it — in the front yard, in the back yard,
in the driveway — all of which I heard nothing of, because I am the
one who closed the windows and said, This has nothing to with us.

In fact, I am the one singing this so loudly I cannot hear you even now.

(Mama, what’s happening outside? Honey, is that the phone?)

I am the one who sings, The bones and shells of us.
The organic broth of us.
The zen gong of us.


Oblivious, oblivious, oblivious. 

February 1991



I see you will live an ordinary life, perhaps
have children, perhaps marry
a kind but un-
remarkable man. There
is a simple journey that waits for you
(Niagara Falls? Yellowstone Park?) Go
on it. Make
the decisions you have to make: paint
the upstairs bathroom blue, move
to Wisconsin. It doesn’t matter.
But here, here in this crease, this crease
like a scar at your thumb—here
I see something more.
The drapes in this room will be red
and torn. Close them. Let him
show you slowly to the bed. No
you’ll say, it’s daylight
and my simple husband trusts me.
Trust me—this
is your moment—the one
you’ll remember (the hot breath
of the August breeze, the sun
white in the sky, the trickle of sweat
on his neck: it will turn to salt on your tongue).
This one you’ve held
and will hold all your life
though it cuts a bit at your thumb
like a single sliver of glass that glints
from a quarry of slate. You
will die someday, of course, slowly
not young not old. And before you’re forgotten
the neighbors will speak of you fondly.
Now close your hand tight
on this secret. Die
with this secret but no regrets. Remember
this is how the small survive, the way
the small have always survived.



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