All I Have Lost to February
What do you have that you don’t truly need,
and what’s like your next breath?
I’ve emptied out the broken toys and water-stung books.
But the stories I’ve forgotten of that sudden blizzard,
the way my father called out of the blue one winter day
before he died, the birthday dinner we brought
to the hospital waiting room years ago, and all the babies,
blurring night and day like late-afternoon fog,
still not burned off—those are lost to February
with all its icy curves, and days of crockpots and hunger.
Because the shortest month is always the longest,
February dreams all night long, keeping us awake
with worries like ice storms, sure to coat everything
until it breaks. It makes us forget if we’ve planted
all those crocus bulbs along the driveway.
The snow melts too early or late, the bare cottonwoods
shake hard, then still themselves to frame the dark red fire
of the sunset. The first snowdrops surprise.
Then, without understanding how we got there,
we climb into March, and the world slowly
goes from black-and-white into technicolor
even though the ground still smells damp and old
like February, and the wind still reminds us
all we have lost that finds us the next beginning.
No One Tells You What to Expect
Downpours as you’re running down Massachusetts Street
in sandals that keep falling off. Ice on power lines.
The dying who won’t die, then a single bluebird
dead at the end of the drive in the wrong season.
The deadline or lost check spilling the orderly papers.
The part that isn’t made anymore for the carburetor,
or the sudden end of chronic sinus infections.
Your best thinking won’t be enough to save your daughter
from a bullying romance or your friend from leaving the man
she’ll regret leaving. The sweet darkness of night might fill you
with peace while just across town, in a quiet gathering of maples,
someone drops to her knees in such sadness
that even the hummingbirds buzz through unnoticed.
Meanwhile, the dog you thought lost returns wet and hungry,
the phone call reports the cat scan is negative, and someone
brings you a tiny strawberry growing in your backyard.
Life will right itself on the water when the right rocks
come along, so put down your paddle and let the bend
tilt you toward what comes next: the bottoms
that fall out, the shoes that drop, the tops that unseal
all while a cousin you lost touch with decades ago
calls, his voice as familiar as the smell of lilac.
No one can tell you how that song will vibrate
through your own best skin.
Expect to be startled.
*this poem appears in Negative Capability Press as part of a profile on Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
Everything That Rises
Rise up without fear
to the coffee and daylight
angling over the dark floor.
Rise out of the dream where you are lost
and standing at a broken payphone,
unable to remember the number anyway.
Rise toward the piano you haven’t played
for months, and place your hands
on the keys of your memory.
Play badly but loud, and let the ringing
rise through your arms.
Rise into the first slant of light breaking
across the living room floor
to coat the sleeping dog.
Open the door into the cold and run
to the passenger door to lean in
and start the car in your slippers.
Rush back inside and let the next
vessel warm for you as you dress and pause,
breathe into one still drop
of this raining life,
the air heavy enough to hold you.
Read a review of this poet’s recent collection…
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of two dozen books, including, most recently, Miriam’s Well, a novel; Everyday Magic: A Field Guide to the Mundane and Miraculous, and Following the Curve, a collection of embodied poetry. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College where she teaches, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, particularly for people living with serious illness and their caregivers. With singer Kelley Hunt, she co-leads writing and singing retreats.