By Patty Paine
Go back to that stream, touch
your lips to the cold, clear quivering,
draw into yourself a time when it was simple
as this to be quenched, to draw in what was
needed. Walk back over the dewed grass
of your past, past the water tower you filled
with dark imaginings, feel
the air crisp & clean on your skin, call
this hope, and carry it
to these moments when a photograph
can send you spiraling, your husband
now six months gone, waiting at the bottom
of an escalator in some airport
or another, everyone hurrying to be somewhere
else, except for this one man, waiting
for you to descend. How a face can be
indelible, yet fade so quickly, is an alchemy
best left unknowable. Hold that sting
of hope, and call out
the name of one who ministered
to you, over & over, until from the dark
you hear your own name return
to you, wild, and rising and clear.
Patty Paine is the author of Grief & Other Animals (Accents Publishing), The Sounding Machine (Accents Publishing), Feral (Imaginary Friend Press), Elegy & Collapse (Finishing Line Press), and co-editor of Gathering the Tide: An Anthology of Contemporary Arabian Gulf Poetry (Garnet Publishing & Ithaca Press) and The Donkey Lady and Other Tales from the Gulf (Berkshire Academic Press). Her poems, reviews, and interviews have appeared in Blackbird, Verse Daily, The Atlanta Review, Gulf Stream, The Journal and many other publications. She is the founding editor of diode poetry journal and Diode Editions. She is an Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar where she teaches writing and literature, and is Interim Director of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
Editor’s Note: Today’s poem is one I encourage you to read over and over. For each reading is like opening the next layer of a Russian doll, and there is always more waiting to be discovered within. While one reading simply does not do the poem justice, you honor yourself, dear reader, each time you slip deeper into these words.
Start in media res. Start in motion. Begin not at the beginning, but by turning back. The world of the poem is visceral. Go on, touch the stream, feel the “cold, clear quivering.” Go deeper now. “[D]raw into yourself a time when it was simple / as this to be quenched, to draw in what was / needed.” Move backwards; a poem—a life—in rewind. Let the story unfold in this way—cinematic, emotive, devastating. Let the reverse motion be what propels you forward. You are Lot’s Wife. You are Orpheus. There is only looking back, but looking back leaves you alone in the dark, “hear[ing] your own name return / to you, wild, and rising and clear.”
What a fraught landscape, yes, but what a gift to have been taken on such a journey by such a guide.