Twitter has brought so many amazing things to my attention with a simple scroll through my daily feed, things like Casey N. Cep’s essay about the online Emily Dickinson archives and this piece by Maud Newton on meeting the writer Donna Tartt (with bonus Instagram photo of Ms. Tartt’s inscription in Maud’s copy of The Goldfinch). For all its haters, there really is nothing like Twitter for getting you up close on all the action, whether that action is from the literary world, the art world, the sports world, or the Kardashian world (I know, I cringed as I typed that – does that make it any better that I’m referencing THEM? Probably not.).
So today’s tweeted nugget of super loveliness came via Ms. Dorianne Laux, another writer who I drop-dead love.
I saw her and her husband read many years ago in LA and it was a thrill beyond compare, for both the astounding beauty of her poems and her forthright approachability. She is the first poet I think of when recommending poetry to my non-poetry reading friends. She is that good.
Anyway, I digress: back to her tweet. It seems that Ms. Laux and her husband, since moving from Portland to Raleigh a few years ago, set up a Poetry Box in their front yard. Neighbors and random passersby can dip their hands into the box and, instead of a real estate flyer as most people first assume they’re getting, pick up the latest poem she’s decided to share. The poems reflect what she’s thinking about and/or has been inspired by that week. I love this idea (not to mention that Dorianne Laux’s house looks exactly like what I would imagine her house to look like; how satisfying to know this!).
Now I live at the back of a small apartment complex in Long Beach, so my front yard is non-existent. My “Internet front yard” however is limitless and abounding. So I thought I would try my hand at an online Poetry Box. I’ll fill it each week with a poem that I think worth reading. Hopefully you like it. Or not.
The beauty of this online nattering is that I can imagine that I’m writing to legions of devoted followers, when in reality, there are probably a dozen of you (my mom and lit friends notwithstanding).
So here it goes. In this week’s Poetry Box, Prayer by none other than the glorious Dorianne Laux:
Sweet Jesus, let her save you, let her take
your hands and hold them to her breasts,
slip the sandals from your feet, lay your body down
on sheets beaten clean against the fountain stones.
Let her rest her dark head on your chest,
let her tongue lift the fine hairs like a sword tip
parting the reeds, let her lips burnish
your neck, let your eyes be wet with pleasure.
Let her keep you from that other life, as a mother
keeps a child from the brick lip of a well,
though the rope and bucket shine and clang,
though the water’s hidden silk and mystery call.
Let her patter soothe you and her passions
distract you; let her show you the light
storming the windows of her kitchen, peaches
in a wooden bowl, a small moon of blue cloth
she has sewn to her skirt to cover the tear.
What could be more holy than the curve of her back
as she sits, her hands opening a plum.
What could be more sacred that her eyes,
fierce and complicated as the truth. Your life
rising behind them. Your name on her lips.
Stay there, in her bare house, the black pots
hung from pegs, bread braided and glazed
on the table, a clay jug of violet wine.
There is a daily sacrament of rasp and chisel,
another chair to be made, shelves to be hewn
clean and even and carefully joined
to the sun-scrubbed walls, a small knife
for whittling abandoned scraps of wood
into toys and spoons for the children.
O Jesus, close your eyes and listen to it,
the air is alive with birdcalls and bees,
the dry rustle of palm leaves,
her distracted song as she washes her feet.
Let your death be quiet and ordinary.
Either life you choose will end in her arms.
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