Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Things I have lost
The best book of YA poetry I have ever read, okay the best book of poetry I have ever read is called "What Have You Lost?" by Naomi Shihab Nye and Michael Nye. It is a collection of poems which answer this question and also its opposite, What Have You Found?
Imagine how easy it is to approach a poem when you already know what question it is answering? And how easy it is to write when you are asked a profound question-- no matter what you say--you sound like an Emmerson.
What if life were organized into questions: You enter a gallery and every painting or sculpture is organized into rooms. One gallery is called "Who have You Loved?" One is "What Day Changed Everything?" One is labeled "Where did you find yourself?
Now instead of bending over impossibly small texts of useless information trying to figure out what the images are about, you can stand back and enjoy a whole room of work. You can imagine the stories for yourself.
Questions are the undiscovered gold of the post modern world. If we only remembered our questions we might find that we long since found the answers as well.
What Have I Lost?
If I tried to go in historical order,
I'd have to start with ---
My favorite baby blanket with pea green and white
checks. I rubbed the nubbies between the back and front
as I sucked my thumb.
I lost my best friend when I was six. She switched
schools to go live with her mother. Her father wore
a toupee which he kept on a styrofoam head at night,
and her step-mother felt comfortable running around
the home in her shimmery polyester briefs. My mother
said white cotton was the only healthy kind--
and I had only ever seen hers in the laundry.
My favorite clothes: a red and white skirt
that matched an old felt cowgirl hat I outgrew. A pink
dress I only wore once after it was washed with a
blue ink pen. My favorite moccasins I wore to
the art museum so I could hear the leather rub an echo
into the waxed wooden floors. My flowered
jeans, and pink "dance" shirt.
My great-grandfather who smoked a corncob pipe.
Who I was sure God could bring back to life just
like Lazarus. The ornate double-door to his bedroom, locked.
In my mind I could see him on the bed, farmer's hands folded
over his overalls. The white chenille bedspread pulled
smooth, its Braille patterns, fringe, and swirls circled a message
of the world I wished to read-- his red ears, large
And when his daughter made that bedspread into
seven teddy bears for her seven grand kids, mine had a pink
lace bow and collar, though it was burned in our small
house fire. Along with the table, nailed together, painted
pink for me, by her brother. The doll tablecloth she sewed
because I loved strawberry shortcake, and the only real
Cabbage Patch I ever received, named Bunny Darcy.
Though those childhood toys are lost, things I saved
for over fifteen moves of one kind or another,
though my grandmother is gone now after her
eighty-eighth Christmas, and her parents are gone,
their house and farm, along with most of their memories,
I am not lost and my hands are still busy. I am
sewing checked blankets, quilts, and new bears.
I plant in soil not counted by acres, but little fingers
and little shovels help me. I fill their pink ears with stories
about everything under the sun--all that I've lost and found
--the meaning of snowflakes, bird seed, and Christmas
until everything blooms into a pattern like a chenille bedspread
and I can almost read Braille, and I am happy.