Tilting Upward

I’ve been so immersed in the juggling act of a full-time job, full-time writing career, VERY needy doggie, several freelance projects, and the online poetry workshop I’m teaching, that I haven’t had much time lately to read or write my own work. Luckily though, my dear friend, Cindy, came over to rescue me with her company during a football game last Sunday, and she shared her new favorite poem, which instantly became my new favorite poem.

Just when I was feeling too harried and frazzled to pay attention to what really matters in my life, I was given the gift of this beautiful reminder. And so this afternoon, in the middle of another seemingly endless day, filled with too many to-do lists to even count, I’m taking a few minutes to sit down with the above-mentioned, newly appointed favorite poem by Ellen Bass, to remind myself why it is that I do all of this crazy nonsense—because my love for the written word is strong enough to withstand pretty much anything, and strong enough to set me back on track whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, or—even worse—underwhelmed.

I pride myself on pbeing extremely self-sufficient, but I like knowing that I always have the page to return to, in one way or another, to keep me ground, and to keep my gaze tilted upward.  Thanks for reminding me about that, Ellen Bass, with your lovely, tender poem.

Gate C 22

At gate C 22 in the Portland airport
a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
a woman arriving from Orange county.
They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
like satin ribbons tying up a gift. And kissing.
Like she’d just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
like she’d been released from ICU, snapped
out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.

Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
the way it gathers and swells, sucking
each rock under, swallowing it
again and again. We were all watching —
the passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing cinnabons, the guy
selling sunglasses. We couldn’t look away. We could
taste the kisses, crushed in our mouths.

But the best part was his face. When he drew back
and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
like your mother must have looked at you, no matter
what happened after– if she beat you, or left you, or
you’re lonely now — you once lay there, the vernix
not yet wiped off and someone gazing at you
like you were the first sunrise seen from the earth.
The whole wing of the airport hushed,
each of us trying to slip into that woman’s middle-aged body,
her plaid bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, little gold
hoop earrings, glasses–all of us, tilting our heads up.

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