I shared this Kay Ryan (1945-) poem in a missive to friends (some of you who are reading this again) earlier this month and wanted to post it here on the last day of 2022. As I wrote in that correspondence, it isn’t ever delicate to live, but it feels especially less-delicate these days, like we keep spinning our intricate webs as forces around us try to pull them down.
For me the only way forward is to think of what helps my inner arachnid build and rebuild, of what keeps the ropes strong, of what posts I can hang onto, of what inspires me to keep spinning the threads despite it all. There is, of course, labor involved, but this is the work that makes the heavy work lighter to bear.
Sharing poems with all of you is definitely one of those buoying, bolstering forces. Thank you for reading what I shared during National Poetry Month this year. I hope the threads of your life are holding up okay, and that in 2023 you find–and create–support and joy in this delicate web we’re all spinning together.
From other angles the fibers look fragile, but not from the spider’s, always hauling coarse ropes, hitching lines to the best posts possible. It’s heavy work everyplace, fighting sag, winching up give. It isn’t ever delicate to live.
Although I grew up in a home that celebrates mothers daily, I want to take this national day of reflection on motherhood to share both a scene from life with my mother, and one of her favorite poems. This weekend I published an essay in Serious Eats about how my mother’s baking ritual taught me how to love what we create–and when to let go. Amidst all the heartbreaking realities of today’s world, I remain ever grateful for the power of food, and for those who nourish us. I hope you enjoy this bit of prose that snuck into my poetry blog, and some insight into the person posting if you are one of the lovely readers I don’t know!
As for the poem, here are the incredible words of one of the most beloved voices of Palestine, Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008). He wrote this poem while in prison for his political activism, poetry, and travels without a permit.
I long for my mother’s bread My mother’s coffee Her touch Childhood memories grow up in me Day after day I must be worth my life At the hour of my death Worth the tears of my mother.
And if I come back one day Take me as a veil to your eyelashes Cover my bones with the grass Blessed by your footsteps Bind us together With a lock of your hair With a thread that trails from the back of your dress I might become immortal Become a God If I touch the depths of your heart.
If I come back Use me as wood to feed your fire As the clothesline on the roof of your house Without your blessing I am too weak to stand.
I am old Give me back the star maps of childhood So that I Along with the swallows Can chart the path Back to your waiting nest.
Make me laugh over coffee, make it a double, make it frothy so it seethes in our delight. Make my cup overflow with your small happiness. I want to hoot and snort and cackle and chuckle. Let your laughter fill me like a bell. Let me listen to your ringing and singing as Billie Holiday croons above our heads. Sorry, the blues are nowhere to be found. Not tonight. Not here. No makeup. No tears. Only contours. Only curves. Each sip takes back a pound, each dry-roasted swirl takes our soul. Can I have a refill, just one more? Let the bitterness sink to the bottom of our lives. Let us take this joy to go.