by Judith Offer
for Toni Locke
Stand still; I am trying to fit this poem around you,
Around your wrinkly smile and your eyes of sky,
Around your recorder waiting on the piano bench;
While you drift to the dining room,
Drawn to the afternoon sun spreading gold
Over your geraniums and your jig saw puzzle.
If you would come back in here
And listen to what I have so far,
The way you always have,
I’m sure this poem would gather neatly around you.
But I stand here, mouth full of pins,
And you float further away,
Across your spare kitchen, out your porch door,
Over the bird feeder and the bird clothesline.
I basted the pieces of your poem yesterday,
A New England style that will be the real you,
Never blustery, nor braggadocio:
A Boismoitier duet, or a Baton,
Or maybe a folk song from your book.
But on you float, over the wormy apple that made good sauce,
Toward The Food Mill and Farmer Joe’s
And I suppose Laurel Books.
The fine fabric of your new poem
Is the one you wove yourself, Toni:
The warp, things unspoken but judiciously lived:
How you kept your body moving;
How you didn’t own things you couldn’t use;
How you tried to make sure
Everyone’s children knew the songs;
How you collected real friends,
The ones who did something for someone else.
The woof is the things you were moved to say:
How you learned to edit a newspaper,
So the people could hang together on the truth;
How you enjoyed and admired your children,
And their children and their children;
How fast and furious and funny life is,
And how impossible to control.
The poem is almost done; one fitting won’t take long.
I know you’ll love it; you’ll wear it forever.
If you will only come back over here and stand still.
* * * * *
Judith Offer has had two daughters, five books of poetry and dozens of plays. (Eighteen of the latter, including six musicals, have been produced.) She has read her poetry at scores of poetry venues, but is particularly delighted to have been included in the Library of Congress series and on “All Things Considered,” on NPR. Her writing reflects her childhood in a large Catholic family—with some Jewish roots—her experience as teacher, community organizer, musician, historian, gardener, and all-purpose volunteer, and her special fascination with her roles of wife and mother. Her most recent book of poetry, called DOUBLE CROSSING, is poems about Oakland, California, where she lives with her husband, Stuart.