Poetry Month Day 7

It’s National Poetry Month, and WordxWord is rolling through their own daily challenges and invites the world to join them.

In the last few days I’ve gone back to the days after my brother was born, the first time I saw a classical Indian dancer performing Kuchipudi on a winter night, the summer I went freelance and nights I once spent laying out a magazine in the small hours, and then looked ahead to heirloom corn and wild blueberries …

For today’s prompts: From the 30/30 challenge I’m taking “truck,” and from NaPoWriMo the form of a tritina. I’ve got to tell you folks, I’ve written sestinas before, and I’d say they’re much easier, though they take time. A form this short with so many repeated words … it’s hard to condense enough.

The first truck I remember getting to know belonged to my grandfather, my mother’s father, Carter Stilson. (Years later I learned to drive in his old truck, stalling the stick shift in a hayfield.) And I miss him.

Sopping up mussels on a friendly impulse,
we’re swapping nicknames and old ties
on a raw night and keeping ourselves warm

— and I remember his voice — hi, dahlin, warm
half laughing while I felt for my own pulse
with his stethoscope … his wool coat and tie

and the webbed truck seat and the twist tie
on wintergreen mints — all alive with the warm
smell of pipe tobacco and the engine’s pulse

— my grandfather, a tidal pulse — still — warm

Trailing arbutus opens along the Dome trail in Williamstown.
Photo by Kate Abbott

Trailing arbutus opens along the Dome trail in Williamstown.

And on Day 8 …

A lot of my writing this week is coming back to my family. I was listening to Jeff Nunokawa at Williams College this afternoon, as he read and talked about essays about his own childhood, and I remembered running with my dad in the woods at the end of our street.

I owe as many wildflower names to my mom, who has most recently showed me trailing arbutus and walks with me in the woods whenever I’m home, as my dad gets me into the garden to plant snapdragons. But my dad got me running back in the day, and thinking about Robert Frost. I stll know that poem by heart.

Prompts: From the 30/30 challenge, “birthmark,” which started me thinking about family and roots … and from NaPoWriMo, a flower …

At dusk on the sandy path between granite ridges
and hemlock trees, we were running together
— I was ten, clumsy and no athlete
(my sister could fall asleep in a straddle split),
but after the patient months you’d kept me going
I could follow this old two-mile loop
and talk and still breathe lightly all the way.
Dad, you spoke aloud Whose woods these are
in the sweet air and scuff of last year’s leaves
you were telling me many ways to read
the last lines, miles to go before I sleep.
I had not seen it — the man who wrote them
as easily cut off or lost to frost
as a stem in the mat of trailing arbutus,
white stars lightly strung from a glacial erratic.
You showed me words taking new directions
— when dark and deep were sandy soil and tree roots
underfoot, and it was an unknown thing
to be out on the trails as night came
and to breathe in a strengthening body
beginning to be no longer a small child.
You were there and I ran freely, and I love you
for spring nights and the names of wildflowers
and all the night trails I have faced since then
knowing the sweetness of mayflower in bloom.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

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