If you believe in snow, you have to believe
in water as it’s meant to be, loosed
from clouds arranged like asphodel. Because that’s
what it’s like to come back: a slow
surfacing, memory spiraling away. You can sleep
so long, whole seasons are forgotten
like a hospital-room plaster, spidered
with cracks in Portugal shapes. You can love
sleep like water, love your heavy limbs
pushing river and ocean aside.
After Maggie woke, the doctors had her stringing
bracelets of semiprecious beads, and she
couldn’t stop counting the kinds of blue.
Here, summer, in the high shade of a ginko,
she pulls up a handful of stones on silk
and we drink grapefruit seltzer, listening
to the tinny chime of bubbles
rising to the air. She can’t remember
autumn, so we tell her someday this tree will drop
its fan-shaped leaves all at once,
golden in the October crush
of every plant’s frantic strip show. Later
we’ll see mountains through the scrim of empty
branches, and if we can look straight up
into the atmosphere, see the same plain old sky
revolving. When we ask Maggie what color it is
she always says iolite, picturing beads
like raindrops, shining azure on the table.
She forgets that sometimes things don’t stay
where you leave them, that the sky fades
to white even before snow begins
to fall. It’s hard, but we have to tell her
even sapphires don’t glow blue
without some kind of help.
Janet McNally is another new-to-me writer whose work I am thoroughly enjoying. This poem in particular is so rich with possibilities … I could read it all night, over and over.
The author paints a lush landscape and the outline of little family, perhaps dealing with more than just introducing their daughter to those sweet little “why” questions kids are known for. I get a sense of sadness, of fragility, of breathless nostalgia. I haven’t read a summary or a critique yet, and I rarely do get the urge on my first read of a poem. This time I’m positively itching to beg McNally for all the answers to what why where when HOW!
But I won’t.