Back in school I studied poetry as part of my English course. Many a poem and many a poet. Beautiful verses, creations by the truly great that have followed me, influenced and inspired me. Not all remain in shiny detail, a phrase, a line here and there I can recall. One poem though stands apart for reasons I’m not quite sure of but it seems to call to me most particularly and has stayed bright and strong all these years. I love poetry, the often obvious complexity, the tone that sometimes mocks or warns or aches. The words that are felt not read, it is a life form and a force.
This poem, I don’t even know if I could honestly call it amongst my favorites but its impact and imprint upon my mind are undeniable. From time to time something reminds me of it and I find myself transported back again to that classroom where we first met. Maybe it is the fantasy, the mysticism or the nostalgic hope, the fear of loss and courage to give independence or the mother-daughter relationship that draws me. Maybe it is simply the memory, the connection I felt back then to the words and how in that classroom I found my passion for language and love of words. Maybe it is all of these things or none, I’m not sure but whichever, whatever it may be I still reread this poem from time to time and I still enjoy it. Poetry should be shared.
The only legend I have ever loved is
the story of a daughter lost in hell.
And found and rescued there.
Love and blackmail are the gist of it.
Ceres and Persephone the names.
And the best thing about the legend is
I can enter it anywhere. And have.
As a child in exile in
a city of fogs and strange consonants,
I read it first and at first I was
an exiled child in the crackling dusk of
the underworld, the stars blighted. Later
I walked out in a summer twilight
searching for my daughter at bed-time.
When she came running I was ready
to make any bargain to keep her.
I carried her back past whitebeams
and wasps and honey-scented buddleias.
But I was Ceres then and I knew
winter was in store for every leaf
on every tree on that road.
Was inescapable for each one we passed.
And for me.
It is winter
and the stars are hidden.
I climb the stairs and stand where I can see
my child asleep beside her teen magazines,
her can of Coke, her plate of uncut fruit.
The pomegranate! How did I forget it?
She could have come home and been safe
and ended the story and all
our heart-broken searching but she reached
out a hand and plucked a pomegranate.
She put out her hand and pulled down
the French sound for apple and
the noise of stone and the proof
that even in the place of death,
at the heart of legend, in the midst
of rocks full of unshed tears
ready to be diamonds by the time
the story was told, a child can be
hungry. I could warn her. There is still a chance.
The rain is cold. The road is flint-coloured.
The suburb has cars and cable television.
The veiled stars are above ground.
It is another world. But what else
can a mother give her daughter but such
beautiful rifts in time?
If I defer the grief I will diminish the gift.
The legend will be hers as well as mine.
She will enter it. As I have.
She will wake up. She will hold
the papery flushed skin in her hand.
And to her lips. I will say nothing