An anthology of Fanny Howe (1940-) selected poems has been quietly haunting me for months. Here is just one of the many gems.
You travel a path on paper
and discover you’re in a city
you only thought about before.
It’s a Sunday marketplace. Parakeets and finches
are placed on the stones
and poppies in transparent wrapping.
How can you be where you never were?
And how can you find the way–with your mind
your only measure?
A short but lingering poem from Linda Pastan (1932-).
“In Back Of”
“I’m looking for things back of remarks that are said . . . ”
In back of “I love you”
In back of
stands “it was lovely
there in the grass, drenched
in so much green
Words that wait
are dark as shadows
in the back rooms
when you raise
your right hand
they raise their left
If you remember the pictures you crayoned as a child, or have seen one recently, perhaps this wistful Lisel Mueller (1924-) poem will resonate with you, too.
“Drawings by Children”
The sun may be visible or not
(it may be behind you,
the viewer of these pictures)
but the sky is always blue
if it is day.
the stars come almost within your grasp;
crooked, they reach out to you,
on the verge of falling.
It is never sunrise or sunset;
there is no bloody eye
spying on you across the horizon.
It is clearly day or night,
it is bright or totally dark,
it is here and never there.
In the beginning, you only needed
your head, a moon swimming in space,
and four bare branches;
and when your body was added,
it was light and thin at first,
not yet the dark chapel
from which, later, you tried to escape.
You lived in a non-Newtonian world,
your arms grew up from your shoulders,
your feet did not touch the ground,
your hair was streaming,
you were still flying.
The house is smaller than you remembered,
it has windows but no door.
A chimney sits on the gable roof,
a curl of smoke reassures you.
But the house has only two dimensions,
like a mash without its face;
the people who live there stand outside
as though time were always summer–
there is nothing behind the wall
except a space where the wind whistles,
but you cannot see that.