Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson
Denis Johnson 1949-2017

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mama's Day to all! The first poem goes out with love to Micah, and the second poem goes out to my mom with love!



Water Wings

The mornings are his,
blue and white
like the tablecloth at breakfast.   
He’s happy in the house,
a sweep of the spoon
brings the birds under his chair.   
He sings and the dishes disappear.

Or holding a crayon like a candle,   
he draws a circle.
It is his hundredth dragonfly.
Calling for more paper,
this one is red-winged
and like the others,
he wills it to fly, simply
by the unformed curve of his signature.

Waterwings he calls them,   
the floats I strap to his arms.   
I wear an apron of concern,   
sweep the morning of birds.   
To the water he returns,   
plunging where it’s cold,
moving and squealing into sunlight.
The water from here seems flecked with gold.

I watch the circles
his small body makes
fan and ripple,
disperse like an echo
into the sum of water, light and air.   
His imprint on the water
has but a brief lifespan,
the flicker of a dragonfly’s delicate wing.

This is sadness, I tell myself,
the morning he chooses to leave his wings behind,   
because he will not remember
that he and beauty were aligned,
skimming across the water, nearly airborne,   
on his first solo flight.
I’ll write “how he could not
contain his delight.”
At the other end,
in another time frame,
he waits for me—
having already outdistanced this body,
the one that slipped from me like a fish,
floating, free of itself.


***


Another Poem for Mothers

Mother, I’m trying
to write
a poem to you-

which is how most
poems to mothers must
begin-or, What I’ve wanted
to say, Mother…but we
as children of mothers,
even when mothers ourselves,

cannot bear our poems
to them. Poems to
mothers make us feel

little again. How to describe
that world that mothers spin
and consume and trap

and love us in, that spreads
for years and men and miles?
Those particular hands that could

smooth anything: butter on bread,
cool sheets or weather. It’s
the wonder of them, good or bad,

those mother-hands that pet
and shape and slap,
that sew you together
the pieces of a better house
or life in which you’ll try
to live. Mother,

I’ve done no better
than the others, but for now,
here is your clever failure.

Erin Belieu

About this poem:
“As the poem expresses, there are subjects that seem to baffle poets more than others, the subject of our mothers being very high on that list. What glorious, enraging, most essential beings mothers are. And while I have the moment, let me dedicate this to Margaret Belieu, who once wisely told me ‘I always knew your brother would walk straight down the hallway, but it seemed important to let you bounce off the walls.” - Erin Belieu

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