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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

26 March, 2006

A reply to Dream On

A little over a year ago, I sent James Tate's Dream On to several friends. One of them sent me this reply, which I reproduce here with permission, but no, sorry, I'm not allowed to reveal the poet's name. Comments are welcome, and will be delivered.

And some people
Write poems every day of their lives
But not on the page, not on the screen...

In the kitchen for friends
Who dropped by just like that
They slice green limes open
And squeeze the heart of summer
Into tall glasses (add sugar, and mint,
Crushed lightly
For the scent, and stir)
In those cool heavy glasses, inherited from
Their mothers or bought at a crafts sale
From the man with the mole on his face,
they carry out a clinking tray
Of sonnets.

And some men
Write poems as they teach
Their children to swim
To step up to the high diving board
Alone in a world of watery echoes
To plunge from that point of stillness
Into the depths of the pool
With chlorine prickling their eyes
And their father saying
You can, you can do it
Come up for air
Now, they hear the slight tremor
the pride and the worry
In the voice of a man learning
to dive into the strange rushing waters
Of parenthood, they hear
the trembling alaap and how it
will suddenly
Swell into a raag.

And some women are poems;
They can't help it,
As they wipe their hands
Briskly on a corner of that
Tatty sari pallu, as they
Push the hair out of their eyes
And poise their hands over the keyboard
Ready to disappear
Into stories or charts, statistics or art,
You recognize in the way
They hold their heads, to an angle,
Curious and measuring,
The way they flex their wrists,
A dancer's movement lost on
The chopping board where garlic
Diminishes into precise slivers,
The way they let their laughter
Travel out of their bellies
Into the world,
You see in the many lines
Lightly etched on their faces
The hard-won freedom
Of blank verse.

It's not just the page
That contains a poem,
It's not just the words
That make poetry, but us,
Listening to the slow cawing of crows
Against the lonely dinosaur
calls of the trains at night,
Watching the local drunk stagger home
At 3 a.m., singing old Raj Kapoor songs,
feeling the touch of freshly washed
towels as they tap politely on our backs,
knowing that these, too, are poems.

The sunbird might live in an empty lot
or might live in the trees
or make his home among the dahlias
in the far corner of the garden--
So long as we can hear the rustling
Of his feathers, feel his little urgent darts
In our veins.



Blogger Quicksilver! said...

Thanks so much for putting this up,Peter!A special thanks to your friend too!


26 March, 2006 14:08  
Blogger SPECKLED_BAND said...

Splendid! And how very true. Salaams to Mr/Miss/Ms Anon.!

26 March, 2006 17:05  
Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Superb. This is what I yearn for - the poetry of the everyday. Thanks to both of you.

James, for a moment I felt a thrill of hope. Then I clicked tbrough and found that you STILL have no blog of your own. Please ... ?


27 March, 2006 08:33  
Blogger Asmita said...

This is truly lovely. Poetry about every day poetry that is so special.

Thank you Peter for putting this up and special thanks to your friend for reminding about the sunshine of life.


27 March, 2006 10:55  
Blogger Arthur Quiller Couch said...

If I could write poetry, I'd want to write like this.
Strange blog. The good contributors don't sign their work.

27 March, 2006 16:29  
Anonymous Anil said...

Dare I say that I liked this one better than Dream On? Poetry as it is meant to be.

27 March, 2006 19:37  
Anonymous Ph said...

Absolutely lovely.

03 April, 2006 03:38  
Blogger scribe said...

Thanks Peter for posting that. I don't know what warmed my heart more - the poem and it's gentle and trembling sensitivity, or just the fact that it helped me get back in touch with the poetry around me. Sometimes you need a poem to do just that. Cheers - Anita

04 April, 2006 21:10  

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