Blessed, We Read "The Winter After Your Death"

Today, thank You. Blessed piece of grass. Thank you for humidity and my blue coat. For the woman at the atrium cafe, carrying her baby, smiling at me though it’s early morning.

Thank You for Craft class, scansion, brains and study.

For a moment, I thought I was in a math course–the strikes and dips on the board may has well been on my body, scanning lines with concentration, a connection with each person in the room.

Sharon Olds’ poem “The Winter After Your Death” under our eyes, offering the tiniest patch of grass. Look. “Deep in my body my green heart” I read, and felt the body lurch forward.

“What does your body do?” teachers ask. What can it do? Nothing…herds are inside. Herds, acres full of them. What can it do, my body, but bite it’s own freedom in the bit of containment.

Poetry is the gate swinging open. The ears twitch. The soul-withers gather, let go. There’s a coming freedom for us. That’s what poetry shadows. The pasture gate, swinging open. Click, rusted, yes, but it will open to god-mountains.

And so we scanned lines. Jasper and I agreed on pyrrhic and dactyls and trochaic inversions. Sometimes I get lost just in those words alone. Word-joy. Who called this word-joy? Stressed/unstressed.

I laughed, laughed out loud in class because I didn’t think I’d ever feel such happiness, learning scansion. Not like this. Not in a community, a table, which should be a fireside. That’s what the professor said, “Pretend we’re gathered round a fire.” A fire that melts the “thick trap / door of ice, … water moves”

Spring foot–like a fermata, a hold. And that’s what we do. Hold things out in our cupped hands. They could be sweet moments, or bitter.

Like staring into a lamppost. She said she could carry it with her in the watercolor. Yellows running out of the lines. Moments or poems. Hold the breath, as we do, in-between next breath.

And so I remember scanning poetry in class. Olds poem between us, fireside…tapping our fingers or feet. Dipping in and out of accentuals. Signals.

Patch of green. We could lie there. For a mid-morning moment. And sing to the god-of being-alive.

Blessed. So we read “The Winter After Your Death” and feel joy.

“A poem is breath in the air. Or it’s ink and paper. It’s standing for a heart and a mind. And I go to people’s poems to learn about the heart and the mind, and to be less lonely as a human being, and to have fun. And maybe people go to poetry partly to find out what we’re really like, to find out how bad we really are, how essential it is that we change while there’s still time, maybe, to change. But a day in a life and a poem about that day, there’s something profoundly different.” –Sharon Olds, BOMB Magazine: Sharon Olds by Amy Hempel

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