It is a day of mournful poetry. When I awoke this morning I did not yet know that poet Maya Angelou had passed beyond the veil. Maya has been an inspiration to me since I was in Creative Writing school in ’90-’92. What a woman!
Before I’d heard of her passing, I’d already penned a poem that was beating its way through me all week. Have you ever heard of poet David Swanger? He wrote a poem called “What the Wing Says” that for twenty-two years has been my all-time favorite for the way it stirs me, it evokes….something intangible… that I still can’t quite wrap my mind around. At 17 years old I did not understand its meaning, though it said different things to me then. At 40 years old I am coming close to figuring it out, yet it remains still “on the outermost edge of desire.”
That is surely the point of poetry, is it not? To ensnare the mind and forever change the reader in some subtle way? David Swanger is a poet who succeeded at doing just that. All week I’ve heard this line echoing in the halls of my consciousness, “Dismiss the grocer of your soul. Nothing important can be weighed…”
I offer you two poems today: David Swanger’s poem, and then a poem of my own, that was most certainly influenced by it…maybe even an answer back to the Wing, or a conversational reply…
What the Wing Says
By David Swanger
The wing says, “I am the space behind you,
a dent in the fender, hands you remember
for the way they touched you. You can look
back and song will still throb. I am air
moving ahead, the outermost edge of desire,
the ripple of departure and arrival. But
I will speak more plainly: you think you are
the middle of your life, your own fulcrum,
your years poised like reckonings in the balance.
This is not so: dismiss the grocer of your soul.
Nothing important can be weighed, which is why
I am the silver river of your mornings and
the silver lake curled around your dark dreams.
I am not wax nor tricks stolen from birds.
I know you despair at noon, when sky overflows
with the present tense, and at night as you lie
among those you have wronged; I know you have failed
in what matters most, and use your groin to forget.
Does the future move in only one direction?
Think how roots find their way, how hair spreads
on the pillow, how watercolors give birth to light.
Think how dangerous I am, because of what I offer you.”
By Heron Michelle
not unlike Tuesday,
and so many Mondays before.
Days into months into years,
epochs stretch back,
like beads on silken thread,
distant beyond counting,
but why bother? Death by tedium
or their crushing weight,
inevitable, just hard to predict;
space-time is a feckless bitch.
No choice but to wear the pitiful lariat,
a consolation prize
for mere attendance of my life.
It is my noon and I despair.
What new fulcrum can shift the balance
of these days?
I become the bobbing ship, crowded
with discontent, sheets slack
with the jab and snap of second-guessing,
getting no where; the albatross is dead.
It is a hungry time, no craving slaked,
a weary time, no rest found in these dreams,
sailing on and on with no arrival.
My eyes ache from strain
denied one visage, yet
I can no longer see the same way,
craving that which is beyond reach,
as existence becomes an assault.
Entangled in old nets, I am bound,
drowning in the snares of my making.
No daring now, I am afraid.
I cannot swim these waters alone
bearing the weight of regret,
and no way to forget.
Tiptoeing the banks,
heron feet in the murk,
head down to probe the mud,
discerning waste from sustenance.
What say you now, wings?
To rise or fall with these tides?
Ripples in these waters still throb,
and sights scryed in the black,
say “take flight! Take heart,
and beat the songs of these reckonings
to where the sun meets horizon
and is resolved in the dissolving
across a lonely sea, chasing
that one elusive fish
who got away.”