Thursday, 22 December 2016

Buffy Silverman hosts Poetry Friday this week. Join the Poetry Friday bloggers at Buffy’s Blog, where we post links to our book reviews, original poems, and other poetic delights.

After a long season of traveling, I’m home and happy to be back to Poetry Friday.

Wednesday was the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Even though the poem I’m sharing today is set in autumn, its meditative quality reminds me of how brief, chilly winter days feel here in Maryland.

This poem is by one of our annual daily poem project participants, my friend Patricia Jakovich VanAmburg. It is from her chapbook, WATCHING FOR BIRDS, and is shared with Patricia’s permission.


By Patricia Jakovich VanAmburg

In autumn, the
one-legged cardinal
totters at my feeder
a new  yogi
dangling mysteries like
his lost leg
what happens inside
the shell — the tomb
how stars are born
and die
the ways we grasp
for substance.
from task to task and
the objects of our desire —
bridging the poles:
the difference between
eternity and nothing —
the sameness of
poet and bird.

Weighing things:
my father on two legs
one of them artificial
my father on one leg
his stump reaching
to ground or
my father’s eyes
after dialysis and
my mother falling —
tripping through
overfull rooms and
the empty house — the
weight on my shoulder,
as I pause by the window
watching for birds.

Read more about Patricia Jakovich VanAmburg’s work at poet Ann Bracken’s website.

Laura here: Have you ever been visited by an animal that you feel is a messenger from someone you have lost? My grandmother sometimes sends me spiders. One once startled me when it sat on a framed picture of me and my grandmother together. It took brief residence right over her heart. This is the magic unexpected, the mystery of nature at work in our lives. I love the way that Patricia surprises the reader by sharing such a moment in this poem.

Sending you all light and warmth over the winter holidays.


12 responses to “The Longest Night”

  1. Warmth, light and peace to you, too, Laura. That is a wonderful, moving poem that nudges the inner me awake. Remembering the electric joy of my lost ones, surely their essence is still here with me. Every hug pressed like a flower in the pages of my past.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      A belated thank you, Brenda. Patricia’s poetry is deeply influenced by mythology and I feel that veil between the worlds of past and present in this poem. I love your image of the pressed flowers — yes.

  2. Such an intriguing poem, Laura. I like”the sameness of poet and bird.” I always find so many similarities to my life and the life of a bird. Happy holidays!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thank you, Kiesha. There are certain animals that come to us with messages, if we are open and listening. Happy New Year to you!

  3. Lovely, Laura–thanks for sharing this one. I’ve felt too often lately like a cardinal tottering on one leg. But if the cardinal can find equilibrium, certainly we can too. Wishing you happy holidays.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Buffy. Many of us are feeling like we’ve had our legs knocked out from under us. But we will persevere, like the cardinal. Happy New Year.

  4. Carol Wilcox says:

    Something so odd and yet interesting about a one legged cardinal, and about the way she connects it to family memories. This is a poem I feel like I need to revisit a few more times.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      I’m glad it intrigued you, Carol. Interesting that the red of the cardinal isn’t mentioned in the poem, but it’s still part of my reading experience.

  5. A lovely post that feels like a hug. Right back atcha!
    These lines….
    “tripping through
    overfull rooms and
    the empty house — the
    weight on my shoulder,
    as I pause by the window
    watching for birds.”

    These lines really get me. Thank you for sharing Patricia’s poem. I’d love to learn more about how to produce a chap book. Do you have resources or a blog posting perhaps?

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks for the comment, Linda. Patricia’s chapbook (usually about half the length of a full poetry book — no more than 30-40 poems) was self-published.

      Many of my friends have published chapbooks with Finishing Line Press. They have an annual contest, but often publish finalists as well as the winning manuscript.

  6. I so love the idea of our loved ones connecting with us through nature. I do feel like we are all connected on some level – we are all stardust, after all!

    A beautiful poem, and the idea of.a chapbook is new to me!

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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