“The poem becomes a map, a note left on a tree, a
rock formation at a fork in the path, a cry in the distance saying ‘this
way’.” – Anonymous
When people make that remark saying, “Don’t be so sensitive,” I wonder how it is supposed to work with a poet? Poets by order of nature are extra sensitive people. They would probably deal with the same agony that a non-poet would, but their metabolism deals with agony, pain, conflict, oppression, and other negative emotions in a very different way. And so when they have bruises, they can’t be as articulate as they are in their poetry.
As a poet, how do I deal with adversaries where a shrink may not fit the bill, or a doctor may think the pain that troubles me is imaginary? Here are a few poems that keep visiting. They sit and talk to me, literally. They help me rationalize my situation, inspire my wounded spirit. I would be happy if they do the magic for you as well.
By Mark Strand
In a field
I am the absence
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.
When I walk
I part the air
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.
We all have reasons
to keep things whole.
By Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
If writing a poem could bring you
Into existence, I’d write one now,
Filling the stanzas with more
Skin and tissue than a body needs,
Filling the lines with speech.
I’d even give you your mother’s
Close-bitten nails and light-brown eyes,
For I think she had them. I saw her
Only once, through a train window,
In a yellow field. She was wearing
A pale-colored dress. It was cold.
I think she wanted to say something.
By Naomi Shihab Nye
Skin remembers how long the years grow
when skin is not touched, a gray tunnel
of singleness, feather lost from the tail
of a bird, swirling onto a step,
swept away by someone who never saw
it was a feather. Skin ate, walked,
slept by itself, knew how to raise a
see-you-later hand. But skin felt
it was never seen, never known as
a land on the map, nose like a city,
hip like a city, gleaming dome of the mosque
and the hundred corridors of cinnamon and rope.
Skin had hope, that’s what skin does.
Heals over the scarred place, makes a road.
Love means you breathe in two countries.
And skin remembers–silk, spiny grass,
deep in the pocket that is skin’s secret own.
Even now, when skin is not alone,
it remembers being alone and thanks something larger
that there are travelers, that people go places
larger than themselves.
By Eunice D’Souza
I am disconcerted sometimes
by the colour of their socks
the suspicion of a wig
the wasp in the voice
and an air, sometimes, of dankness.
Best to meet in poems:
cool speckled shells
in which one hears
a sad but distant sea.
By Jose angel Araguz
My son, look at the waves. Those
smaller ones barely breaking, you
had a brother and a sister like that:
not fully waves, barely there.
I wanted you to come out fully
shaped. I stayed in bed, had my body sewn
My body held you, and you surged
in me. Together we swelled.
When it was time, they handed you to me.
Full. Breaking with Light.