The Poetry Notebooks

Tonight, I’m organizing the poetry notebooks.

There are three of them: Childhood-1995, 1996-2005, and 2006-Present. They’re woefully disorganized. The first one is filled with handwritten scraps of paper, some of them torn out of spiral notebooks. There are some typed poems toward the end. It may seem silly to type them all up – after all, most of them will never see the light of day (if I can help it). But who knows, perhaps Ophelia will want to read them someday, and I do want to keep a record of what I’ve written, even if it’s early, early work. (Meaning, from when I was a teenager. I think the first poems in the notebook are from high school.) The middle one is all right, although I just created new dividers, and I will probably reprint a number of the poems. There are a least a few from those years that have been published and that are worth including in a collection. The last one has to be created. I thought I’d kept better track of what I’d written, but evidently not. And that’s where the bulk of the poetry I’ve published has come from.

I’ve told you that I’m cleaning up the mess, right? This is part of that process. Today I bought a cork board to go over my desk, so I can stop putting yellow stickies on the wall. And I bought my day-planner for next year. (I always get the day-planner of all day-planners, the one that lets you fill in daily, weekly, and monthly schedules.) At the moment I’m in the middle of dealing with the poetry notebooks, because if I’m going to put a poetry collection together, I may as well clean up my notebooks as well.

So today you won’t get much of a blog post from me. I’m cleaning and organizing.

But I did write a poem today, and I thought I would share it. Here it is:

What Would You Think

What would you think
if I told you that I was beautiful?
That I walked through the orchards in a white cotton dress,
wearing shoes of bark.

In early morning, when mist lingered over the grass,
and the apples, red and gold, were furred with dew,
I picked one, biting into its crisp, moist flesh,
then spread my arms and looked up at the clouds,
floating high above, and the clouds looked back at me.
By the edge of a pasture I opened milkweed pods,
watching the white fluff float away on the wind.

I held up my dress and danced among the chickory
under the horses’ mild, incurious gaze
and followed the stream along its meandering ways.

What would you think
if I told you that I was magical?
That I had russet hair down to the backs of my knees
and the birds stole it for their nests
because it was stronger than horsehair and softer than down.
That when the storm winds roiled,
I could still them with a word.

That when I called, the gray geese would call back
come with us, sister, and I considered rising
on my own wings and following them south.
But if not me, who would make the winter come?
Who would breathe on the windows, creating landscapes of frost,
and hang icicles from the gutters?

What would you think, daughter, if I told you
that in a dress of white wool and deerhide boots
I danced the winter in? And that in spring
dressed in white cotton lawn, wearing birchbark shoes,
I wandered among the deer and marked their fawns
with my fingertips? That I slept among the ferns?

Would you say, she is old, her mind is wandering?
Or would you say, I am beautiful, I am magical,
and go yourself to dance the seasons in?

(Look in my closet. You will find my shoes of bark.)

Right now this is just an experiment, one I’m still working on. But that’s what I did today – organize, write a poem.

Oh, and you should have an illustration for it. She’s not wearing birchbark shoes, but here you go: Windflowers by John William Waterhouse.

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5 Responses to The Poetry Notebooks

  1. Pat Bowne says:

    This is beautiful! May I post a section of it on my blog? I will give you credit and link back to you, of course.

  2. Thanks, Sophia! 🙂 Pat: Yes, of course. Go right ahead.

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