I Held Poems

Those most beautiful

I couldn’t read for a crowd.

When Sexton, blind with love,

Saw her daughter’s life stretch out,

When Thomas sang in his chains like the sea,

And refused to mourn–

 

Once I was in that cold embrace

They carried me along and up and down the peaks of waves.

I was in thrall.

They made me pull in my breath.

My throat ached its resistance.

 

And sometimes in my search for words

I felt my face draw shut

When an image opened,

Tender as a wound in my mouth.

 

Sometimes I wrote about my father,

Discovering, even after fifty years

The fresh mark of his inscrutable rage,

And reading it as loss,

Even though I knew he was across town

Nursing the clock on his wall.

“Don’t be an absentee,” he’d said the last time,

As if I must remember to vote

Before the polls closed.

 

Once I took him out

And brought a book of poems.

He complained

About the slowness of the coffee,

Barked at the waiter for not knowing

That Belgian waffles have strawberries,

Not peaches, goddamnit.

 

I read him a poem by Shelley,

One that wouldn’t bring me to shame,

And another by Hopkins that almost did.

 

“Now you,” I told him, sliding the book across.

He turned the pages and began,

Stopped,

Began again,

Then, in midsentence, closed the book.

“Can’t,” he said, and looked away,

My father,

Bearing my unshed tears.

 

©2014 Katherine Grace Bond