Never Enough Poems
I came home from my Litfuse weekend, in Tieton, Washington, with a stack of new poetry books, not to mention my head abuzz with good conversations, workshops, and poems, poems, poems. The featured poet was Ellen Bass, who I have to admit swooning for, but another connection made was with Terry Martin.
Terry’s book, The Light You Find, published by Blue Begonia Press, is luminous. She captures her childhood, her geographical region, and an ever-widening circle of objects, vistas, and loves, only to set them free on these pages, a gift for a lucky reader.
My Blue Schwinn Hollywood
leans against Ponderosa Pine,
sister’s hula hoop circles a sprinkler.
A green rubber hose coils
like a serpent on wet grass.
Snakes repeat throughout the poems (“Dry grasses rattle like a snake’s warning”), also barncats and canyons and hawks and tin cups, sage and quail and ditches. But reading and rereading I feel that it isn’t a lost Eden that is being evoked here, but something right on the edge of awareness, waiting to be seen and experienced again. There’s a kind of insomniac’s call throughout the book, an edginess, not dread exactly, despite a “howling loneliness,” but maybe a sense that if you wake, if you walk out onto the front porch, the moon will meet you there.
These poems please me so much, and startle me, too, shaking me out of my reverie. They make me want to move to Yakima and knock on Terry’s door (In “The Dog and I Listen,” a three-line poem: “I chop garlic, dice onions. / Ears lift when wheels crunch gravel. / Your arrival, still my favorite sound.”)
Like the best poems, they make me want to get out my notebook and write. It’s impossible to share a favorite poem from the collection, but here is one of the many that resonated with me, like one of those good, Litfuse conversations:
Like any good teacher,
it both leads and follows.
It softens hard edges,
springs hinges loose.
Unfastens bolts rusted tight.
Sheds light down long corridors.
Announces deafening omissions.
Unfurls rolled flags.
offers up evidence.
Soothing as sweetgrass,
it tips toward fullness.
I spent many summers on my friends farm in Yakima – the freeway had yet to be built that would block our way to the Yakima River. We had to get thru bobbed wired fences running fast as we would be chased by Bulls. They had milk cows and I got used to drinking a glass of warm fresh from the cow milk at breakfast. It was a happy time. Her father, however, was an alcoholic, and died by the side of the road when I was 15 . There is a lot of poetry one could write from the hills and valleys – I didn’t but the times there were happy because of my friend’s mother, Mary, and still when I visit the farm and my friend I feel home.