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.
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.
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.