I’ve had a poem mulling around in my mind for a few weeks. I started it back in the middle of January, when our little hamlet had a cold snap and we all walked around the house like zombies, sniffling and complaining about cold feet. (At least that’s what I did. Andy rarely lets the cold get to him like I do. In fact, he rarely let’s weather get to him at all. He’s is the less fickle member of the family.)
The cold does get to me though and, while beautiful, tends to make me feel melancholy and blue. So it was -20 and I was melancholy and I wrote a draft of this poem.
But I wasn’t happy with it. It seemed too surface-level and trite. So, I set it aside and let it percolate. I came back to it today and saw that the cold was a catalyst for me to address a deeper issue, one that goes beyond temperatures.
It dawned on me, that each morning (pun intended), when I wake up, I have a choice. What to wear, yes. And then, what to eat for breakfast. (Coffee, of course, is not a choice but a necessity!) And then I can choose whether I will complain about the weather or not.
But, before all of that, I get to choose what word will describe my day. Is my day going to be described in terms of Love? Gentleness? Hopefulness? Or am I going to move about my day with fear coloring everything I do? (I struggle with fear, I admit.) Or impatience? Or hate?
So, this poem turned into a sort of pep-talk to myself. A call to action, the action being a dogged determination to claim joy and hope and love when, let’s face it, there’s 101 reasons to despair.
To stubbornly stand, unmoving, on words like Joy and Hope and Love (especially when the whole world seems to be operating with adjectives like fearful and hateful) is to engage in a small-scale revolution. And I’m all about revolutions.
January, -18 F
I woke today
with hesitation, some unnamable fear
snagging again the thread-bear remnant
I’ve somehow become. Once malleable
and able to bend
in the shifting moments, my mind
feels brittle as branches
snapping in wind’s brisk hand. I want to blame
something: so, maybe
it’s winter, the way it crushes
everything with dark and ice. Only the birds
rise above and even they
flit slower, pausing at the feeder
to shake cold’s heaviness
from their feathers. Or maybe
it’s the state of affairs: the radio
broadcasting only one story, Cain and Abel.
But instead of stone
there’s guns and words. Hate, reinvented.
Yes, maybe that’s what makes
the sun on my kitchen counter
seem more like shadow then light.
Maybe that’s the snag. But then, the infant,
my son, who hasn’t learned yet, smiles
gleefully, tiny bubbles of spit
forming on his pursed lips. And his big sister
leans over a notebook, pencil perched
in her hand. She’s learning
to write and read and she’s so proud.
I watch them, bewildered. What’s happened
to me? So wise I’ve forgotten.
So knowledgeable, and for what?
I want to go back
to the book I learned from. Unlearn it,
page by page. Linger on the lessons
of joy (so much easier to spell
than mourning) and hope (one simple
syllable to despondency’s complicated four).