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Friday, May 2, 2014

Absence: Poem of the Day

I found a tiny brochure of a poetry book at the library and was so delighted when it turned out to be some of the best poetry I've read by a current author in many years.

The "book" is Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey. I guess I am really out of the poetry scene since I didn't know that she was US Poet Laureate in 2012-13 and received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for this book. Having corrected my poetic failings, I had to make sure Trethewey was on your radar as well.

As I started reading this poem, I was thinking it was a simple little story--and then it sucker-punched me. Having lost my mom several months ago, I immediately related it to her, but then I thought of other people and different kinds of losses. This poem is a perfect little gem encapsulating the universal story of loss and absence--showing the point of view of the one grieving as well as the one who left. Pure beauty.

At Dusk

At first I think she is calling a child,
my neighbor, leaning through her doorway
at dusk, street lamps just starting to hum
the back drop of evening. Then I hear
the high-pitched wheedling we send out
to animals who know only sound, not
the meanings of our words--here here--
nor how they sometimes fall short.
In another yard, beyond my neighbor's
sight, the cat lifts her ears, turns first
toward the voice, then back
to the constellation of fireflies flickering
near her head. It's as if she can't decide
whether to leap over the low hedge,
the neat row of flowers, and bound
onto the porch, into the steady circle
of light, or stay where she is: luminous
possibility--all that would keep her
away from home--flitting before her.
I listen as my neighbor's voice trails off.
She's given up calling for now, left me
to imagine her inside the house waiting,
perhaps in a chair in front of the TV,
or walking around, doing small tasks;
left me to wonder that I too might lift
my voice, sure of someone out there,
send it over the lines of stitching here
to there, certain the sounds I make
are enough to call someone home.

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