A POEM FROM MY PERSONAL ARCHIVES

In keeping with poetry month, I am posting here the original poem that sparked the inspiration for my forthcoming book, CRAZY.  It was the first of twenty poems that I wrote as a cathartic exercise to deal with my mother’s bipolar disorder.  It was one of several that appeared in adult literary journals.  When a friend suggested those twenty poems needed to expand into a novel, I began the task of writing that novel (through many revisions) and transitioning from an adult to a YA voice.  

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OCEANOGRAPHY

The sunsets.

What shocking news one day to discover

not all oceans swallow the fiery ball whole;

blood and bruise-hued spectrums

slung against the edge of the earth,

life drips back into life.

 

We walk the wide empty beach

Daddy and I,

while Mother sits in the car.

It’s just a gentle mist, he says.

Sometimes in the steady drizzle

we discover the best treasures.

Once, a smiling duck

fashioned with tools of the deep,

gnarled in just the right contours.

Mother watches from the car.

 

Look.  The sun peeks through,

hope in its purest form erupts.

Running and shouting discovery

into the rhythmic boom

becomes a necessity.

Like the seashell

I am compelled to roar.

 

Far out on the rocks

sea lions bask and bark

wisdom into the wind.

You have to rise with the sun

strategically position downwind

to catch the message.

It might not apply, but you listen.

 

Whether misting or windy

there must be a picnic fire

discovered again for the first time,

an intensity of self-preservation.

Huddled behind a burnt out log

left by some other primitive,

we let the flames heal weeks of frozen separation.

 

By now, khakis rolled up,

Daddy ventures in up to his knees.

Mother’s diseased feet,

more scarred by the ground they’ve covered

than ravages of nervous rash,

heal by a miraculous blend of sand

and a man’s undying, patient love.

 

The water.

Icy shock treatments.

Surely Mother prefers this to the state ward;

milligrams of fishy salty therapy.

And for me

a cautious day along the edge,

because only Daddy knows

where the best agates beach.

 

But the sunset,

the sunset is the whole purpose,

the only relevant point of the mission,

the day having built to a crescendo

a tribal urge to gather in one final ritual of unity.

Exploding down the horizon, the epiphany of color

pierces the windshield of our weathered green Chevy.

 

Now, late in life,

my children swim deep

and I learn, with resignation,

to relate to an ocean

that quietly turns out the lights

at the end of a long, hot day.

 

The Texas Review, October, 1995

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Congratulations to Barbara Younger who won the drawing for a copy of Cupcake Cousins!!

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Hey READERS, I would love to hear from you.

Is your MIND FULL of old thoughts or new?


Comments

A POEM FROM MY PERSONAL ARCHIVES — 14 Comments

  1. Wow, Linda! Maybe you should have included this in your book! It will be copied and put in mine when I get it!!!

    • Thanks, Terrie! It did start out in the book, many revisions ago. I wrote it during Salisbury days at the beach one day when I dumped the kids on Wendell and went off to sit under a palm tree!

  2. Linda, your poetry AMAZES me. This is so beautiful and brings tears to my eyes. I’m so glad you listened to your “friend.” SHe was right, you know. 🙂

    COngratulations, Barbara. Book looks great!

  3. Thanks for sharing this poem, Linda. You put me in a reflective mood, remembering childhood – and trips to the beach, both as an adult and as a child. As an agate hunter I smiled at your words, “where agates beach.” Have we all not been drawn to an Agate Beach in our hunt for them?

    I was struck by the thought of living near the Atlantic instead of the Pacific and the sense of loss you alluded to in your piece.

    You captured so well an observant child’s experience while honoring your loving father and showing empathy to your mother. Well said.

    • Hi Jill,

      Thanks for your kind comments. I never “got over” being an Oregonian and being awed by the powerful Pacific! To this day the Atlantic Ocean doesn’t hold a candle to it, and I will forever be grieving the absence of the sunset! Waiting around for the sunset was one of the highlights of my childhood trips to the beach. We were really blessed to be raised out there, don’t you agree?

  4. Wow….you are so talented! I am really looking forward to this book.

    BTW, we need to get together one of these days!
    E-mail me when you get a chance.

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