First Lines — Staggered
- Published: May 1, 2020
All month I have been staggered by the world’s beauty. The sun on the Mayapples, their fairy parasols unfurling in shiny reptilian green. The sun on the tulips, the way light seems to slosh out of those red and pink and yellow cups, like wine out of wineglasses at a tipsy garden party. The blue of Virginia bluebells. Blue with a little lavender drizzled in.
The rain has been beautiful, too. It rained all day this past Sunday, steady and slow, then steady and slower. The deep chimes on our porch rang and rang. We slept with the bedroom window open to let the music into our dreams. No sequence of notes ever quite repeats, or so my dreaming ears believe.
Moments beaded and streaked on the windowpanes. We got up late, ate every meal late. I wore pajamas all day, pulled on a sweater to ring the bells at 6 p.m. with my neighbors. Like me, the day moved vaguely, happy to drift about the house in ratty slipper socks.
The treefrogs began singing this month. Singing their scorched-throat songs. One sings, another faintly answers. Will they ever get together? I’m concerned and suddenly tearful at the possibility of a connection missed, a love match never made.
All month I have been staggered by the ordinary kindness of villagers. The kindness of words and glances, the kindness of people wearing homemade masks to protect each other, to flash the signal of solidarity, of mutual care. I have been staggered by the closeness I feel to friends and neighbors, across the gulf of six feet. It’s funny how that gulf seems to measure not distance but nearness, the in-it-togetherness that many of us viscerally feel.
And I have been staggered by the quiet, by the absence of traffic, by the clear stars at night and the moon’s silent movement through its phases, building to fullness and tearing down the moon-house again.
This month, this strange month, this unforgettable month, has been in some ways so sweet. This sweet world is as much the world as the frightening one is. Have you maybe felt this, too?
I have been staggered by poems, wise poems, wild poems, my own and other people’s poems. I am grateful for the worlds they open, the worlds that take up hardly any space on the page but stretch to the furthest reaches of human imagination and at the same time place me — right here.
This month, I want to share a small poem of my own from this time. It’s written from the world of my immediate surroundings. The world I’m always losing. The world I’m always turning to poetry to find.
Light comes in and touches.
Shadows with a sharp edge won’t hurt.
The lovely clatter
of grasses in the backyard!
The nail on the toe on the foot of a chicken.
Through the pane everything is dusty if clear.
Light catches the hem, and tugs.
*This column originally appeared in the April 30 issue of the News. To read other First Lines poetry columns, visit the archive page here.