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Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

straw_shrub

It is still (just barely) National Poetry Month, and I am thinking of Edna St. Vincent Millay, particularly since the subject of one of my favorite Millay poems, “The Strawberry Shrub,” is in bloom now. It’s an odd poem, a very close examination of this plant that she calls “old-fashioned, quaint as quinces,/Hard to find in a world where neon and noise/Have flattened the ends of the three more subtle senses,/And blare and magenta are all that a child enjoys.”

She describes its color as the “color of dried blood, color of the key of F.” I love that last metaphor. Although I do not have synesthesia in the medical sense, Millay’s “color of the key of F” makes sense to me. When I sing my own songs, my natural key is generally A or G. The key of F is lower, deeper, fuller, a bit darker. If fire red is middle C, the key of F is this color.

This past week I have been having a good time finding other blooming plants in the color of the key of F. Here are a few.

jack_interior

The interior of a jack-in-the-pulpit.

pawpaw_blossoms

Pawpaw blossoms.

red_trillium

A kind of red trillium.

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No pictures today, but I’m posting a poem I wrote—yes, sometimes I write along with my students—during a weekend writing workshop at Tygart Lake State Park, November 8-10. We were a group of nine writers, and we had a great time. Not to mention good food and a nice hike in the woods. I hope some new folks will join me next spring or fall at Tygart Lake State Park.

The prompt that elicited this poem was one I have often used with very young writers: “Write a poem to anyone or anything: your dirty sneakers, your alarm clock, your great-great-grandfather, your dog, your big toe. Address the subject of the poem as if it were here with you and could hear you.” We often talk about the reasons for writing such a poem: you might want to say something to someone who’s gone, express a long overdue thank-you, or complain about someone or something anonymously. Writing a poem of direct address is the equivalent of writing a letter that goes unsent…unless, of course, you write it to a real person and send it to them. In the case of this poem, I decided to give a copy to my doctor, who seemed to find it amusing.

To My Intestines

Looped and wound about within me,
what a patient friend you’ve been.
Since those first few months of mother’s milk
you have accepted what I sent you,
masticated but hardly masked:
donuts and coffee, Junior Whoppers,
foods of every color and culture
from fiery Asian curries to noodle kugel.
Once, for fourteen diet-driven days,
nothing but GrapeNuts and fat-free yogurt.
Once, a quart jar of dill pickles.

I think of you hardly ever,
disregard the way you go about your business
mostly (not always) in silence, in darkness.
No breaks, no vacations, and few
complaints about being the one
who always has to do the dirty work,
whose groans of labor are the butt of jokes.

I saw a picture of you once, after
the indignity of a colonoscopy.
I’ll tell you, and it’s true:
I thought you were beautiful,
a sinewy channel of pink, not unlike
the coral coilings of a slot canyon
I traveled though in Arizona.
O secret and circuitous tunnel,
O pipeline winding through my flesh and bone,
O necessary viscera,
I honor you.

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