It was pretty clear from the start that I wasn’t going to be a saint. But a poet? Maybe.
I knew she loved poems. My mother. She tucked me in each night with Emily Dickinson. I was safe and feathered (the sweet spot where hope lives).
I suppose I saw early on how the words lifted her. How even in her darkest hour, they offered this light. I wanted to be a part of that. That lifting light.
Once I started looking, I could see it. You had to want to see it, but it was there — the poetry of our town. You had to pass the giant Viking statue on main street to get to my school. The giant Viking that claimed us as the “Birthplace of America.” Written on his shield, what could be more poetic than this? Inside Washington Elementary, Mr. Iverson brought the bouncing words and notes into our kindergarten music class. The librarian read the words aloud that soon we would learn to spell in Mrs. Berstrom’s first grade classroom. Words screamed from monkey bars and whispered in lavatory lines. Words I scribbled in crayon and revealed to my mother at bedtime. Hope lived.
Poetry winded through my wet hair as I raced on my bicycle from Lake Latoka. Poems ran beneath my sanded feet in the ballpark. Waved through the farm fields of my grandfather. The open windows of my grandma’s car. Bounced upon the neighbor’s screen doors. Crackled in the summer gravel of Van Dyke Road. Fell from autumn trees. Rested in winter snows. And returned with spring — just as promised. Summer bikes once again pulled from garages.
I attached the playing card to the wheel beneath my banana seat. The joke would now be on my brother, because he could no longer ask me to play “52 pickup” – now it would be 51. The click-clacking echoed through the streets as I pedaled. What was making the sound? Was it the wheel? The card? Or the wind?
And so it was with the poem. Who was writing it? Was it me? My mom? The town? The words echoed in my heart. I wrote them on paper. And we were saved.
They don’t make me want to go back, but pay attention to the place I’m in — the poem that is gently click-clacking right outside my window. A love that keeps lifting. Safe. And feathered.
“EMILY: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”
STAGE MANAGER: “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”
― Thornton Wilder, Our Town