It’s been a while since I participated in Poetry Friday. I’ve missed it. Last night I attended a local poetry reading by San Francisco poet, Dean Rader. He read from his book Works & Days which I highly recommend. He’s a terrific reader and his poems are very accessible. And if you are looking for a kidlit connection, well he writes about Frog and Toad. Yes, THE Frog and Toad, but the poems are NOT for children.
The reading was hosted by The Willow Glen Poetry Project which is a terrific group that meets less than ten minutes from my house. I’m so glad I found them. After Dean’s reading it was an open mic night and I got to hear a variety of talented poets read their own and a few poetry lovers read poems by other writers.
I decided at nearly the last minute to read too. An original poem that wasn’t from my YA novel-in-progress, that wasn’t written with my normal kidlit world in mind. These simple facts shouldn’t matter but the thing is, they do. They do because I can’t remember the last time I had such an adrenalin attack and then adrenalin rush. I speak in front of people all the time with no fear (anymore) but this was a brand-new arena for me where I was a total stranger. No one knew I had been published or not. No one was there because they paid to hear me speak. It was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I love it!
This poem had it’s genesis back in April of this year when, after taking the month of March off to play, I tried to distill the experience in a poem a day for National Poetry Month. The original poem appeared here. The new and much revised version is below.
Proof of Life
by Susan Taylor Brown
I find it hard to take anything on faith alone.
I want proof, facts to nourish the idea that mindfulness
is worth the time it takes away
from doing nothing.
Easier to cave in to echoes from the past,
nodding as they aim ink-stained arrows
at my list of undone dreams.
I think I’m finally (okay, just beginning) to understand.
Be here now is not defined
by climbing mountains and vanquishing dragons,
it is a never-ending journey
the me I can never trust
is good enough.
Today I shadow-step the dog on garden patrol,
down the path behind the hedgerow where unwelcome Bermuda grass
creeps under the good-neighbor fence,
along the side yard filled with dogwoods, leaves still clinging
to the almost-red-for-winter branches,
and past the pond where goldfinches gather for their morning bath.
Nose to the ground, she gobbles any bugs that cross her path,
bugs that will make her throw up in the middle of the night,
bugs she will happily eat again the next day.
This is her religion, her testimony to me.
She will keep me safe from all things,
even from myself.
We weave a new path through the overgrown herb garden
until the scent of mint and sage clings to us both
until she has finally sniffed everything that could be sniffed
until she is content to sprawl in a puddle of sun,
trusting I will not stray far.
She knows how brave I’m not.
A lone, but not lonely Ceanothus
hugs the fence, just beyond her shadow.
Industrious honey bees,
plump carpenter bees
and hover bees that look like flies,
all swarm the blue blossoms,
ignoring the now sleeping, snoring dog
ignoring each other
Faith isn’t always found in stained glass cathedrals.
I let go,
let go of unclimbed mountains and dragons still breathing fire,
let go of everything that isn’t here and now,
let hungry, happy bees buzz all around me
and listen to the concert
I almost missed.
© Susan Taylor Brown
All rights reserved.
Jama has the Poetry Friday Round-up at Jama’s Alphabet Soup. Please check out all the great postings. And come back next week when I’ll share some of the poetry books I’m reading as a panelist for this year’s Cybils!