Everyday Poems #6, “The Root”

keillor

One night back in 2013, when a night out meant going to the used bookstore to only look at the books, we did just that. At the back of ours, there was a place to sit in big orange chairs. I can remember being particularly sad about life. I loved my family and where we lived. But we were running out of money and our piddling income came from me working a job I did not like and was not very good at.

The meaning of poetry is to give courage. A poem is not a puzzle that you the dutiful reader are obliged to solve. It is meant to poke you, get you to buck up, pay attention, rise and shine, look alive, get a grip, get the picture, pull up your socks, wake up and die right. . . . Forget everything you ever read about poetry, it doesn’t matter–poetry is the last preserve of honest speech and the outspoken heart. – Garrison Keillor

I remember sitting in those orange chairs and looking to my left and seeing the poetry section (it has now moved to a more out of the way place, by the way). This was early in the store’s history and there were only a couple shelves dedicated to the subject. I can also remember not even wanting to get out of the chair and go over to that section.

But then I saw a yellow spine that said “Good Poems” and “Garrison Keillor.” So I got up and went over and took it down from the shelf, sat down, and realized that the actual title was Good Poems for Hard Times.

Huh.

After reading the wonder-full introduction, I opened it at random and read a poem by Barbara Crooker that not only made me smile out loud but truly changed me. From that day forward I kept a copy of her poem pinned to a cork board to the right of my screen at work. I saved a few dollars and eventually purchased that book and now it sits just a few feet from where I am now sitting.

I had the chance to thank the author and that was a grace too.

Not long after this event, I wrote the following poem.


The Root

What is it like to have?
To say no on a whim?
To say yes so easily?

What is it like to have it sit there
waiting for its turn, like…
a pinch-hitter in a tough spot?

Do those with some to spare
fear they will lose something?
Or do they laugh at repairs
and then in joy raise a glass
knowing the car will be fixed
and the leak patched
and the doctor paid
and pantry filled?

I sit and watch the birds in my yard –
and drink coffee
and eat little oranges
with a blue sky above dusted with clouds.

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