My new book of poems, Reduced to Joy, has just been published. The book contains seventy-three poems, retrieved and shaped over the last thirteen years, about the nature of working with what we’re given till it wears us through to joy. For the next few months, I’d like to share poems from the new book with you.
We live in an age that is obsessed with the new; so much that we have been called the disposable society. While it’s often easier to throw something out rather than repair it, we lose our depth of relationship to the things we touch. We lose the human history of objects and tools and the presence they accumulate for moving through many lives. This poem helped me recover a deeper sense of how presence passes itself through all that we touch.
WHAT OTHERS HAVE TOUCHED
When his grandson was born, he
began collecting antique toys—a torn
doll, a wooden rabbit, a cloth bear.
He loves to see his little one touch
what others have touched.
When told it had to go, she refused
to cut the old apple tree, though its roots
are buckling the driveway. She doesn’t needthe apples. It’s the deer. Every fall she shakes
the upper branches from a ladder. She loves
the small thuds to the ground. She loves
early coffee as they soft-hoof and nibble.
When Jess and Laura were small, I
bought earrings in Florence. I’m saving
them till they turn sixteen. I love think-
ing of the earrings waiting in my closet
for them to grow.
When in Amsterdam, he thought
the museums would grab him, but it
was a sloppy Newfoundland wading
in a reflecting pool; splashing patches
of water filled with sun, then trying
to bite the splashes. He loves to think
of the soul’s journey this way.
When Grandma made potato pancakes
on her small stove, it smelled like burnt
French toast. I’d sit on a stool in the corner
and she’d mat one on some napkins, blow
on it, and give it to me. She’s been gone
twenty years. But I love how she
cooks them for me in my dreams.
A Question to Walk With: Describe one object that has come into your possession that has a history. Describe this history and how it touches you. Describe one object of yours you’d like to pass into the hands of others and why.