The Myth of W-a-t-e-r
It was not a single word and there was no utterance.
You may have your play, your frozen moment in time
if these please you. But understand, Teacher lead me
to the well house to distinguish between water and what
holds it for drinking. I held the cup under the pump and she
wrenched the handle. I could smell her sweat, though
I didn’t know its name—only that it mixed with the garden
and told me she was near. The liquid hit my fingers
where I gripped the cup’s handle—in my other upturned palm
she spelled the letters over and over, like fire.
There was a moment when everything shifted.
My mind accepted thought like a body crossing a threshold.
Through the opened door, she beckoned—it was
illumination and joy, then more words until Teacher,
Helen, world, go. Go into your life! I have.
In Which She Puts to Rest the Mirror
It was 1913, at Wrentham, the actress visited, saw me captured in
She raged awhile, tossed volumes of words, could not steal rapture from
Polished glass reflects light without diffusing, gives back the clear image
of anything before it. They learn—no denying stature in the mirror.
I was taught to foxtrot, smile with grace, portray the blind freed from
Fear, that fleeting partner who found me, locked, immobile in the mirror.
How can she know her beauty? tell her flaws? learn how age lights on her
without the persuading echo of the mirror?
I opened my palm to listen, Teacher spelled, “The lake reflects the trees
real as when God made them, perfect as a mirror.”
Love on my face, what was that? Loss in my heart, what was that?
Reflect these merely in a surface? Why would I want the mirror?
The children’s fingers, like wildflowers, told the world true
as a piece of glass reflects knowledge, in silence, in a mirror.
When you cross to the next room after death, Helen, the light is yours,
the birdsong clear, the wind through trees tells God. You’ll know, without
Encounter in Montgomery, 1918
Walking in Sister’s yard, I found a plant I couldn’t name—
the foliage billowed like nothing I had known, it frothed
in plumes with tiniest bracts—asparagus? No, celery,
I exclaimed. But, it wasn’t. When I put my face
into the soft spray, it was cool on my eyelids,
a spring of water, delicate mist. Teacher might say,
Within each plume a blush of rust suggests itself,
then hides in the cloud of green. I didn’t expect
a plant that felt like coolest peace, without a leaf
discernible, with only the sketch of itself to breathe.
Oh, the fennel, Sister said, later. And I knew
the fragrant pillow of it was as tangible
as the thought of him I had let go, let drift out
and away, above the river.