I wrote a poem on my birthday, which was at the beginning of May. Poetry writing is a mystery. It is a mystery to me why sometimes a poem just seems to pop out of my subconscious up to the page before me. At other times only a germ or a seed emerges and then there is so much painstaking watering and planting, weeding and pruning, and then replanting and more watering to be done– so much is required before the poem can thrive, become itself, and give its perfume and joy to others.
Then of course, sometimes it just shrivels up. I have discovered that in trying to grow potted plants there is something called overwatering. It’s like helicopter parenting. You hover so assiduously over the sprout in your care that you rob it of its natural resilience. The same can be true for a poem. Too much fussing can rob it of its innocent and pure self.
Then again sometimes you might discover what you thought was a poem is actually something quite different– a letter to a friend, a contract, or an old discarded receipt for something you never wanted in the first place. Sometimes you don’t know what it is that has come out of you until you leave it for a bit and come back to it.
So I have come back to what I wrote on my birthday, and I think, yes, it is a poem. So here it is: a poem that marvels that, having lived seven decades on this earth, I still feel more or less as I did when I was seven: that although the past may have been a wintery place of terror, the storms are for the moment over, and I am here, safe in the beauty and wonder of things, and life beckons
The river flowing backward means
The tide is coming in
The new green of the crabapple means
There will be a blossoming
I am tugged backwards by these waters
To a childhood scene: we are walking
On my birthday after my party
By the Dee; the evening light
Is falling at its hazy angle after rain
And over us a sudden rainbow curves
A cradling arm in infinite embrace–
I catch my breath, and then, just then
The geese, wings tipped with gold
Pointing the vee of their arrow
Through the arc of promise
Into my heart, the geese
Come honking home.
Then and now
I am flying through the rainbow
With all my mad and wild desire
I too am honking
For I am safe in the stirring air
For I have flown through the storm
With my noisy companions
For I am seven and seventy
And before me