I’ll never forget the question. I paused, looked up at the woman, and said something like this:
“It helps me wrap my mind around whatever I’m dealing with.” (These days that would be aging, grandchildren, covid-19.)
“I get a little edgy, all bent out of shape when I don’t write, so it’s to everyone’s advantage that I write.”
And, "I guess I no longer know how to get by in this world without putting my thoughts and feelings on a sheet of paper or into a computer."
I don’t really know why other poets write. I can’t speak for them, but they have been my teachers. This is April, National Poetry Month. I’ve been putting a poem or two in my blogs each week, to honor poets and poetry. I am grateful to the poets I’ve encountered, in person or in print. They have shared and shown me how I can use the poetic form to deal with whatever life throws at me, reporting what I see, hear, feel, touch, smell, think. Brave poems show the insides of me.
Poets, I love your images (word-pictures) and your poetic ways of showing me the hard rain, a melancholy thought, the needle-strewn ground, the ache and groan, the empty hours, roots almost too deep to see, a smile that lights up a city block. You have given gifts to me. I am much obliged, as my father would say with a firm handshake.
The following poems are from my four books. I give them to whomever in hopes that one will be a gift to someone.
Driving at daybreak,
we pulled up and onto the pavement
of Push Mountain Road.
We headed northeast
toward Matney Knob to begin
the long ride.
As we approached Zimmerman Peak,
we could see a man, up high, standing
on a ledge, staring at the eastern sky
drinking the rising dawn. He stood
straight-back, sipping from a cup.
My husband slowed the car
to wave his full hand and greet
the nobleman of this rock-ribbed
mountaintop. Mr. Zimmerman,
twenty years older than he, answered
by lifting his mug high in salute
as we passed.
Ahead, the road hugged the Knob.
A crimson sky streaked with peach
burst upward, like a flower unfolding.
Then we abruptly curved back north.
My husband saw a man
welcoming the day and life. I thought
I saw one gentle man toast
and bless another.
-- from Blind Curves, by Pat Durmon
At first the family cowered,
saying nothing about painted nails.
The moments were like walking
on eggshells. A nursing home,
new to one and all. No stumbling,
no missteps welcome.
Then Mother poked at us
by asking another “why” question.
Eggshells flew everywhere,
over the linoleum, onto window sills—
fragmented and fragile.
Stunned, we sons and daughters
either froze or negotiated delicate steps.
No place to stand without driving
fine white daggers into shoes.
But when someone made mention
of her nails, she looked down
at both hands like she might consider
an August peach. Her words
sprayed sunlight: “My first time….”
It looked like a white flag.
-- from Lights and Shadows in a Nursing Home, by Pat Durmon
I beheld it
soon after the dogwoods budded.
The river in its unapologetic way
swelled and splashed through thickets,
edging the banks. It pecked away
at roots and runners
of thick canebrakes
Then, worrisome words
from the radio.
More thunderstorms coming.
Conversations became short,
eye contact grew scarce.
High waters ran here, there,
over roads, into basements.
such a terrible freedom.
And yet, it was that same noise
you and me.
A funeral could not have made us
-- from Push Mountain Road, by Pat Durmon
Owls hoot and swoop
off and on, but you loop up
from your lowly branch
for flying insects.
Hard to see, dressed
in mottled gray and brown.
But how you pitch
your whip-poor-will sound,
reminding me of a toddler
chanting three syllables
I cannot sleep.
How you do put it out there,
regardless of owls or hawks
is looking for a snack.
Maybe I should belt out
poems the way you throw notes,
regardless of whatever
can eat me alive.
Maybe I could outlast you,
-- from Women, Resilient Women, by Pat Durmon
My books, listed below, link to their Amazon pages, in case you have interest in purchasing one. They have heart and legs in them.
Pat Durmon, poet, in her treasured, intimate home.
Photograph by Jimmy Durmon, 2020.