Lying Down on This Earth
for Rick Benjamin
I am falling in love with another poet
I really should stop this swooning on the page,
sand on the printed beach between my toes,
the breath of a stranger coming near like a bird
sudden in the vast sky, the whoosh of wings
my eyes astonished, so much beauty
in the world the very moment the voice
comes to me, my father calling, yes, once more,
though he has been buried at the feet
of rhododendrons some years now,
the memory of his voice rushing into bloom
on a day following a torrent of rain
and this stranger on the page knows it, and
loves me back just a little, the exchange
between us one of air and bird and leaf,
the knowledge of what it is to be alive
sudden as a feather rocking
in a windy fall, my chin lifted
to the sky, arms ready to receive
the certainty of one more turn
of phrase, one more thing
we both know, and there
it is, the connection breathing
back, pungent as the pitch
of an old pine, when a limb
is cut away, and the living
circles engrained in the wood
weep their quiet loss.
Do you feel a draft?
—It could be a lost moment, unconnected
with earth, just passing through. – Galway Kinnell
The fire has gone out at the cabin.
I huddle in blanket and scarf, one hand
gloved, the other free, wondering
what moment to catch, tie to hearth –
the one where I lift the split pink cedar
onto a teepee of torn old shingles, tucking
a wad of newsprint into the ash, strike
match to flint – or the one where I follow
my pencil on lined pad, try to land a loose
thought, connect to where I’ve just been, or
where I might be drawn, some dew-laden path.
This day we switched our sleeping bodies
to Daylight Saving Time, tugging us forward
like children reluctant to leave a warm bed,
dragging teddy. I keep the kitchen clock
at last night’s pace, preferring that hour,
not wanting to rush to advance it. I fear
too much may be missed in the shift. How long
can one rush breath, and not be dizzy?
Stunning, how one warm hand can settle
the difference, coax me to believe nothing
is lost, only risked. Whether I feed the fire,
or the flame on page, something right
announces itself, perhaps the very fact
I may choose, or that minutes matter,
devoted either to the flicker of a quick tango
licking the brick, or to the drawn-out lope
of a languid waltz, rhythm leading down-up-up,
down-up-up. Dance with me. Connect whatever
has strayed in our joining limbs. As branches
stir the wind, rub the window with a slight squeak.
As wood joins fire in a mellow after-thought.
Carol Barrett earned a doctorate in Creative Writing, following a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. An NEA Fellow in Poetry, Carol teaches Poetry and Healing courses. Her poetry publications include Calling in the Bones (winner of the Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press,) Drawing Lessons, and Reading Wind (forthcoming in February 2024.) Her Creative Nonfiction text Pansies was a recent finalist for the Oregon Book Awards. You will also find Carol’s poems in Christian Century, The Women’s Review of Books, JAMA, Poetry International, as well as over fifty anthologies.