An Artist's Quest

Lost and Found

My book group met last week.  Usually we read novels and sometimes nonfiction and very occasionally poetry.  This was one of those rare times of poetry.  We chose to read from Kay Ryan’s book of poems The Niagara River. Ryan was our 16th Poet Laureate of the United States.  Her poems are tidy and crisp, well crafted.  No extraneous words, they are like a well-weeded garden, nothing scraggly or unintended left behind.  Each poem is packed with meaning, word play and wit.  It was lovely to spend an evening with friends picking through her poems and unpacking them, with the strength of four minds we could unearth more meaning and harvest more insights than I alone could conjure.

I was particularly drawn to the poem Things Shouldn’t Be So Hard, which I include here.  It made me think at once on my grandma who lived most of the year with my family from the time I was six until she died just shy of one hundred, long past my leaving home.  I have a number of her things, a solid rocker which makes a creak when rocking that brings me instantly to sitting on her lap listening to her quiet voice tirelessly reading one more story.  I have a blanket that she sewed from wool scraps, that is tattered and tired but remains on my bed despite the fact that only I can see the beauty in it.  The poem also prompted me to pull out a box of old photographs I have stored in my studio.  Some of the photos are of people I know and some of the photos are of people my people knew but the names are lost to me but most of the photos are of people who I could never know because I bought them from a bin at a yard sale or antique store or the bottom of a box at the Salvation Army.  These are people whose names are lost, except for a few scrawled in delicate script across the back, someone’s attempt to hold on to identity a little bit longer.  And so we’ll all go some day,ashes to ashes, dust to dust, the photos and the letters lasting longer than our corporeal self could ever hope for.  Enough from me, here is Kay Ryan’s poem:

Things Shouldn’t Be So Hard

A life should leave
deep tracks
ruts where she
went out and back
to get the mail
or move the hose
around the yard;
where she used to
stand before the sink,
a worn out place;
beneath her hand
the china knobs
rubbed down to
white pastilles;
the switch she
used to feel for
in the dark
almost erased.

Her things should
keep her marks.
The passage
of a life should show;
it should abrade.
And when life stops,
a certain space-
however small-
should be left scarred
by the grand and
damaging parade.

Things shouldn’t
be so hard.

-Kay Ryan

Here is a link to the Poetry Foundation website and it’s profile of Kay Ryan

2 responses

  1. Kitty

    Lisa, thank you for the reminder… it is a wonderful sentiment to keep fresh in your mind. Don’s mother June lives with us, she is 92(almost) and a very nice woman and always has been. We are lucky.

    March 21, 2011 at 10:13 am

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