“Self Portrait” by Linda Pastan

I am child to no one, mother to a few,
wife for the long haul.
On fall days I am happy
with my dying brethren, the leaves,
but in spring my head aches
from the flowery scents.
My husband fills a room with Mozart
which I turn off, embracing
the silence as if it were an empty page
waiting for me alone to fill it.
He digs in the black earth
with his bare hands. I scrub it
from the creases of his skin, longing
for the kind of perfection
that happens in books.
My house is my only heaven.
A red dog sleeps at my feet, dreaming
of the manic wings of flushed birds.
As the road shortens ahead of me
I look over my shoulder
to where it curves back
to childhood, its white line
bisecting the real and the imagined
the way the ridgepole of the spine
divides the two parts of the body, leaving
the soft belly in the center
vulnerable to anything.
As for my country, it blunders along
as well intentioned as Eve choosing
cider and windfalls, oblivious
to the famine soon to come.
I stir pots, bury my face in books, or hold
a telephone to my ear as if its cord
were the umbilicus of the world
whose voices still whisper to me
even after they have left their bodies.

 

Linda Pastan, via Poetry Magazine (October 1997)

“Why Are Your Poems So Dark?” by Linda Pastan (repost)

Isn’t the moon dark too,
most of the time?

And doesn’t the white page
seem unfinished

without the dark stain
of alphabets?

When God demanded light,
he didn’t banish darkness.

Instead he invented
ebony and crows

and that small mole
on your left cheekbone.

Or did you mean to ask
“Why are you sad so often?”

Ask the moon.
Ask what it has witnessed.

Source: Poetry (August 2003); by Linda Pastan

originally posted: 8/11/14

(I will be on a digital hiatus/detox during October. I’ll be running a collection of previously posted material from 2014, the first year of Words. Hopefully it will be new or nearly new to most of you. I may be slow to reply to comments or emails that need response. Thanks for understanding, xo, Christy)

“MUSE” by Linda Pastan

MUSE
after reading Rilke

No angel speaks to me.
And though the wind
plucks the dry leaves
as if they were so many notes
of music, I can hear no words.

Still, I listen. I search
the feathery shapes of clouds
hoping to find the curve of a wing.
And sometimes, when the static
of the world clears just for a moment

a small voice comes through,
chastening. Music
is its own language, it says.
Along the indifferent corridors
of space, angels could be hiding.

~ Linda Pastan, via Poetry Dec. 2000; found on-line at washingtonart.com

“Ars Poetica” by Linda Pastan

Ars Poetica
for Billy Collins

As I sit reading your book of poems,
page after page
of ordinary things
but with a twist– the kind of flavor
a twist of lime can give
a gin and tonic,

I wonder why I can’t
write poems like that, melancholy
but not sad exactly,
instead of writing the way
I always do
under a darkening cloud.

And so I take pencil to paper
and try to describe your book,
why it makes me happy.
But here comes that cloud again,
no larger at the moment
than a man’s hand.

Linda Pastan
from The Gettysburg Review, Summer 2015

“The Cossacks” by Linda Pastan

For Jews, the Cossacks are always coming.
Therefore I think the sun spot on my arm
is melanoma. Therefore I celebrate
New Year’s Eve by counting
my annual dead.

My mother, when she was dying,
spoke to her visitors of books
and travel, displaying serenity
as a form of manners, though
I could tell the difference.

But when I watched you planning
for a life you knew
you’d never have, I couldn’t explain
your genuine smile in the face
of disaster. Was it denial

laced with acceptance? Or was it
generations of being English—
Brontë’s Lucy in Villette
living as if no fire raged
beneath her dun-colored dress.

I want to live the way you did,
preparing for next year’s famine with wine
and music as if it were a ten-course banquet.
But listen: those are hoofbeats
on the frosty autumn air.

“The Cossacks” by Linda Pastan from The Last Uncle. © Norton, 2003.