By Betsy Sholl
These two poems cannot be found in any of Betsy Sholl’s books, only here and in the magazines listed.
THE SEA ITSELF
Here, on solid ground, a blue jay lands,
beautiful and shrill, looking right at me,
banging a seed over and over, as if
hell never get it rightanother creature
I once crudely dismissed. Im sorry
for all my old arrogant thoughts,
for the man who followed me
one whole summer, a grabber, swallower,
a devil in Bermuda shorts. But really,
his hands were so thin and shaky,
it was easy to slip through,
all it cost me was an old blouse,
the buttons flying off into the pine needles
and white sand of our struggle.
I left him on his knees weeping,
my blue shirt dripping from his hands.
Of course, I said, No. But Im sorry
I said it so fiercely that day
there wasnt room for pity or anything else.
Im not sorry I said No to the storm tide
that dragged me out, then tossed me back
like an undersized fish, an hysterical teenager
flung on shore. Thick quilted clouds overhead,
sand blowing through tufts of beach grass
such a total No, it became a kind of Yes,
so the world was suddenly everything at once,
solid and shifty, stormy and calm.
For years I told this story all wrong.
Even now, my words at just a net
holding fish, while the sea itself slides through,
that slippery, unfathomable
yes & no, that everything-at-once
impossible to name
even of you have been spared, even if
you have blue wings and many more songs
than the harsh one so easily learned.
[ first published in Off the Coast]
Let the rich sing I am grass the flower of grass
all praise to the scorching heat
Let the poor say I possess the earth as wind does
in the pocketless swell of my shirt
Let the hungry rejoice in their keen eyes
that see how every solid is as warm
And doubters the double-minded let them see
they are water married to sky
Dearly beloved who isnt beguiled by mirrors
preening everywhere on walls
Words are dear ticks throats are exhaust pipes
Let the teachers say I was wrong let the banker say
my moneys worn thin and flammable
Let the poor sing those brief day lilies finally flare
[ first published in Crying Sky]
Betsy Sholl has published six collections of poetry, most recently Late Psalm (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004). Don’t Explain won the 1997 Felix Pollak Prize from the University of Wisconsin, and her book The Red Line won the 1991 AWP Prize for Poetry. As of March 1, 2006, Betsy Sholl was chosen to be the Poet Laureate of Maine. For more information about the Poet Laureate, please visit her site.