Poems that stick with me

Watering the hibiscus
this afternoon —
its weary
parched-green leaves
wilting
in this too-early April heat —
I saw a gecko
who
climbed up the side
of the splintering planter box.

My first split-second
thought —
Alice Walker’s garden gecko.
Crouching,
perfectly still —
the both of us —
I stared at it
and took in
the wonder
of it all.

It didn’t move —
was it asking
for some water?

This bliss,
it was my Paradise.
Gray, rough-coated
nature —
staring right back at me
a foot from my face.

Slowly I moved the hose
just an inch in its direction.
Walker — I’d already
named it Walker —
disappeared so fast
I didn’t even see
it go.

I wish it would’ve stayed.
I had water to give
and troubles
to wash clean.

—Terri Guillemets

referencing Alice Walker’s 2011 poem “Going Out to the Garden,” in The World Will Follow Joy: Turning Madness Into Flowers, 2013 — alicewalkersgarden.com/2013/05/poem-going-out-to-the-garden

Long ago now

I am searching for my feelings
through shelves of dusty books
can’t help but feel I’ve left them
in some forgotten ancient nooks
as if an author long before me
captured my emotions in his day
and saved them in fine poetry
for future me to find someway

—Terri Guillemets

Existing

I wanted to write
      a book of poetry
but it’s already written;
      those poems —
red, throbbing, beating —
      are just trying to
            make their way
                  to the paper

—Terri Guillemets

Umber

there are only so many poems one can write
about umber tree roots and the glowing moon
before the psyche starts crying out to be heard
the suffering of the world isn’t poetic
but it is essential to poetry

—Terri Guillemets

Strive & struggle

I am a poet, — though
I’ve yet to write a poem —

when my soul blossoms
and my mind goes free
when I finally let go of
the suffocating shroud
o’er the wildness of me

my beauty will spill out
the ink will overflow and

finally I’ll be able to see
through a sapphire lens
into the heart of infinity

.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

I know I am a poet —
someday — I will be

but the earth hasn’t
shattered inside me yet

.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

I have still only yet got
the seeds of the words
within me; I am learning
and yearning and earning
and living my way toward
being born into harvest

.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

There’s a meteor shower
inside my brain —

stars shooting down
every bright idea
words burning out
before inking the page —

broken-hearted dementia
sleepless engulfing fog —
search and rescue crews
report every line gone

—Terri Guillemets

E. Markham portraits

When I saw photographs in an old book of the poet Edwin Markham, I had a sudden urge to try the “barbaric yawp” scene from Dead Poets Society. Teacher John Keating challenges student Todd Anderson to create a poem on the spot, after glancing at a photo of Walt Whitman on the wall. So, I stared at the pictures of Markham and wrote the exact words that came to me, without allowing myself to edit. Below are my two poems based on two portraits, and below that is the Whitman-inspired poem from the film.

Edwin Markham portrait from the The Man with the Hoe with Notes by the Author

“Side Portrait of Edwin Markham”
hair like roaming waves of the sea
eyes reflecting the light of heaven—
studious, compassionate, soulful—
pythagorean shiny nose
laugh lines loved into place
a beard that let the cat in
face aglow with manly health,
honesty and freedom
—Terri Guillemets

Edwin Markham portrait from Gates of Paradise

“Markham Portrait with Book”
a thinking eye
but jolly cheek
a furrowed brow
but kindly stance;
the hair of a hippie
and student & master—
the burden of life
and love of wife—but
something perpetually
unsettled within him;
button-up coat over
raw, naked soul—
a book in his hand
and ten in his pen
—Terri Guillemets

Walt Whitman

“I close my eyes, and
his image floats beside me—
a sweaty-toothed madman
with a stare that pounds my brain.
His hands reach out and choke me
and all the time he’s mumbling—
mumbling truth, like a blanket
that always leaves your feet cold.
You push it, stretch it,
it will never be enough;
you kick at it, beat it,
it’ll never cover any of us.
From the moment we enter crying
to the moment we leave dying,
it’ll just cover your face
as you wail and cry and scream.”
—Tom Schulman, “Sweaty-Toothed Madman,” Dead Poets Society, 1989, spoken by the character Todd Anderson

“I too am not a bit tamed — I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”
—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1856 edition

Flux

cracks in poetry
are not ruins
but gaps to let
meaning breathe

—Terri Guillemets

Glows & blossoms

The glow of the moon is poetry
The blossoming of flowers is poetry
The blossoming of woman is poetry
The glow of woman is poetry —
      and even more so, because
      the light comes from within.

—Terri Guillemets

Midair

poets swing too high
until the chain kinks
and snaps mid-air
      the
            fall
                  is
                      poetry

—Terri Guillemets