Day 5: Pearl Light, Impossible Poems, Silence

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Pearl light, empty and cold.  Clumps of the off-and-on light snow from the last few days top the browned hydrangea blossoms.  The white lying across the fields and caught in hemlock needles bounces the day back up into itself, a bit of brilliance.  There won’t be many hours of light today, but at least what there is will be reflecting into the air, hard and dry.

David and I have been talking this morning, about the party we went to last night, a collection of poet friends, each of us quirky with creativity and the struggle to hold the making of poems, defenseless little expressions in such a chaotic world, as a primary focus in the face of enormous demands.  Each of us gathered last night have such huge loads to carry – challenging and time-gobbling jobs, or aging family members who require constant attention, or young adult children slipping their tires as they try to get traction in adult lives.  It’s a wonder any of us ever write anything.

Our holiday party tradition includes the hostess giving everyone a prompt to write a poem.  After eating, we each read our poem – or not, those too overwhelmed to write are easily excused – and we tell ourselves we’ll just listen to each other, it’s not a night for critiquing, it’s a party, not a workshop.  But we can’t help ourselves.  Reactions to the poems leak out.

“I wish we could let go of feeling we need to comment on the poems,” a new member of the group said to me as we were leaving.  This was her first holiday party.  “Did you notice the silence after each of us read, as we tried to figure out what to say that wasn’t a critique?”

Mostly I just noticed how much more silence there was after my poem.  Or did I imagine that?

The prompt: Traditions Made New.  My poem:

The Table

“The table comes first,” the French say
and our table fills, and fills again, golden

oak sliding open on gears, leaves unfolded.
A voice carries from the snowy road, lilt

of the neighbor calling her dog, a woman
who never left her house, who now walks

every day past the pruned apple trees
and boxes of frozen garden. Chairs move

in and out of rooms, go back up on hooks
in the barn. The house has nothing to prove.

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About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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2 Responses to Day 5: Pearl Light, Impossible Poems, Silence

  1. lewellynhallett179951522 says:

    Grace, I’m so glad you shared the poem here! I regret missing those holiday parties since I’ve moved away and this year’s sounds like another wonderful gathering. It is an exceptional group. And I also feel like that silent pause is longest after my poems! Love.

    • Grace Mattern says:

      So nice to hear from you, Lewellyn. That poem’s gone through 3 or 4 more revisions since I shared it on Wednesday night. The nature of poetry . . . We miss you too.

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