This lovely piece is from a new friend of mine and one of my favorite writers, Hilary Sherratt. She really knows how to capture beauty with her words. You can find more of her writing at thewildlove and she tweets at @hilarysherratt.
In a night of soft rain, she lies on her bed, angled just so her feet dangle off one edge while her head rests on the lopsided pillows. She feels her stomach rise and fall with the work of breathing, the letter still resting in her hand. She wills gravity to bring it back to the floor, but it stays nestled in her fingers. She won’t let it go, because in it is the truth, the kind of truth that once you read it sears itself onto your skin, an endless repetition. So she holds the letter and she closes her eyes. There is no music playing, not fitting soundtrack, just the night of soft rain and the rise and fall of breathing.
After what feels like a year, she gets up, crushing the paper between palms and fingers, smoothing it out again, reading it – did it really say – and there is nothing but the rain and suddenly it hits her, that this letter signals an ending, not a beginning, that this is the quiet, that this is the summer alive with heat and soft rain and the story that is not what she believed it would be.
She reaches for Lisel Mueller.
The October night leans hard toward sunset as she drives home, the sun a fierce fire casting its rays violent against the sky. She watches it sink beneath the hills where two small elegant horses graze. The rash decision to drive home for dinner with her family, for some touchstone of comfort or home while the world breaks and bends around her, around the decision against graduate school right away, around the time that she realizes that she has no idea how to write anymore, she almost quits blogging then, because it’s too hard to be vulnerable. That night, after spaghetti and water she barely ate, she creeps into her room.
She reaches for Pablo Neruda, then pulls Ted Kooser, Billy Collins and Wislawa Szymborska too.
Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.
That’s David Whyte, “The Journey.” She read it while eating a cinnamon and brown sugar pop-tart knockoff in a kitchen in the Northeast part of the city, drinking milk, waiting to become ready to go to church down the street and over a few blocks. She memorizes it then, almost crying. No one else in the apartment is awake. No one else can hear her. Over and over she repeats the sounds, indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart. She says it days and years later, when she has to tell him goodbye, when she has to graduate, when she has to stay behind while others leave. She reaches for it first, when there is nothing for it but to shout a line of poetry out into the empty plains.
And on a Tuesday afternoon she finds “When Kingfishers Catch Fire,” the Hopkins that dances around the ear, darting in and out of beauty like a minnow, like a hummingbird, like the dance of poppies in the Provence fields and the call, the wild call, of big sky country in Montana. And the words burst forward into the day, break the silence that must be broken by beauty.
She has learned that poetry is wonder. She has learned that to write the small indescribable wedge of freedom in your heart you must read the words that make you wonder, that call out and mystify and demand, in their dance of syllables and sibilance and sound. She has remembered, reminded, rebuilt, reimagined a thousand times how to describe the reason to have a bookshelf of poetry in every house, the reason to reach for it in the middle of the night and on a Sunday morning and at all the times it seems to help the least, all the times when you sing and speak the words and they fall, gravity bound, back into your ears and into the rich black earth.
Tonight, I reached for Ellen Bass and Richard Wilbur and Edward Hirsch.
The world whispers itself over and over in shimmering lights across a dark ocean.
Poetry is wonder.