listen to linda


    Yesterday was a day outside; today was a day inside: I worked for twelve and a half hours. I came up to write tonight with few words anywhere in or on my person, so I decided to go back through last week’s poems at The Writer’s Almanac. Maybe reading how someone else puts words together, I thought, would push me to do the same. And I found this poem by Linda Pastan:

    Rereading Frost

    Sometimes I think all the best poems
    have been written already,
    and no one has time to read them,
    so why try to write more?

    At other times though,
    I remember how one flower
    in a meadow already full of flowers
    somehow adds to the general fireworks effect

    as you get to the top of a hill
    in Colorado, say, in high summer
    and just look down at all that brimming color.
    I also try to convince myself

    that the smallest note of the smallest
    instrument in the band,
    the triangle for instance,
    is important to the conductor

    who stands there, pointing his finger
    in the direction of the percussions,
    demanding that one silvery ping.
    And I decide not to stop trying,

    at least not for a while, though in truth
    I’d rather just sit here reading
    how someone else has been acquainted
    with the night already, and perfectly.

    I had never heard of Linda Pastan before tonight. My loss. I took a little time to try and find more written about her and by her. Inspired by her own willingness to sit and read how someone else has already captured the moment, I offer you two more poems I found.


    Pierre Bonnard would enter
    the museum with a tube of paint
    in his pocket and a sable brush.
    Then violating the sanctity
    of one of his own frames
    he’d add a stroke of vermilion
    to the skin of a flower.
    Just so I stopped you
    at the door this morning
    and licking my index finger, removed
    an invisible crumb
    from your vermilion mouth. As if
    at the ritual moment of departure
    I had to show you still belonged to me.
    As if revision were
    the purest form of love.

    That last sentence kills me. I’ve lived that sentence more than once.

    Women on the Shore

    The pills I take to postpone death
    are killing me, and the healing
    journey we pack for waits
    with its broken airplane,
    the malarial hum of mosquitoes.
    Even the newly mowed grass
    hides fault lines in the earth
    which could open at any time

    and swallow us.
    In Edvard Munch’s woodcut,
    the pure geometry of color—an arctic sky,
    the luminescent blues and greens of water—
    surrounds the woman in black
    whose head is turning to a skull.
    If death is everywhere we look,
    at least let’s marry it to beauty.

    I don’t want to say much. Her words need room to resonate, not to be drowned out, even if it is applause. Suffice it to say, if there is not a Linda Pastan Fan Club, I’m starting one.



    1. “Marks” by Linda Pastan is my favorite. My Comp II students often choose it for poetry explication. (I put in italics to set it off from the rest of my comment.)

      My husband gives me an A
      for last night’s supper,
      an incomplete for my ironing,
      a B plus in bed.
      My son says I am average,
      an average mother, but if
      I put my mind to it
      I could improve.
      My daughter believes
      in Pass/Fail and tells me
      I pass. Wait ’til they learn
      I’m dropping out.

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