I'm going to let someone else speak for me. I don't have permission to post this poem, so I hope the gravelings don't come after me and sneeze graveling snot into my laptop keyboard to short it out or anything (Girl and I have been watching Dead Like Me the past couple of days).
A good friend receives a newsletter from Alan Cohen who runs the annual Power of Poetry festival in Hocking Hills in Logan, Ohio. Now and then, my friend forwards the newsletter when Alan includes a poem that "speaks" to her that she thinks might also speak to me.
The one she shared with me earlier this evening says what I want to say tonight, at 12:29 a.m., on Jan. 1, 2011.
I hope you can forgive me, David Wagoner, for posting your poem without asking. But I love it and love your work and love you.
Old Man, Old Man
Young men, not knowing what to remember,
Come to this hiding place of the moons and years,
To this Old Man. Old Man, they say, where should we go?
Where did you find what you remember? Was it perched in a tree?
Did it hover deep in the white water? Was it covered over
With dead stalks in the grass? Will we taste it
If our mouths have long lain empty?
Will we feel it between our eyes if we face the wind
All night, and turn the color of earth?
If we lie down in the rain, can we remember sunlight?
He answers, I have become the best and worst I dreamed.
When I move my feet, the ground moves under them.
When I lie down, I fit the earth too well.
Stones long underwater will burst in the fire, but stones
Long in the sun and under the dry night
Will ring when you strike them. Or break in two.
There were always many places to beg for answers:
Now the places themselves have come in close to be told.
I have called even my voice in close to whisper with it:
Every secret is as near as your fingers.
If your heart stutters with pain and hope,
Bend forward over it like a man at a small campfire.
- David Wagoner,
Traveling Light, University of Illinois Press
(May 25, 1999)
The line that makes me ache because I recognize it, the startling face of it, is "I have become the best and worst I dreamed." In his newsletter, Alan said that line grabbed him, too.
It's hard to be so serious, though, when the teenagers in my basement are screaming and laughing.
I forgot to warn my neighbors.
(the worst I dreamed.)