Addendum by Diane Ackerman
MARGINALIA • SKIP TO THE POEM
The fever is starting to bloom inside my body. I want to embrace the warmth but my fear is telling me I should worry.
The ache in my throat seems like I swallowed a small robin, its soft wings fluttering about in my larynx. I imagine coughing out feathers, but I open my mouth and I can barely hear my voice.
YOU FUCKING IDIOT, my sister screams while I listen to her disinfect and disrobe after two days at the emergency room. I am miles away from family and her voice sounds farther away the more she gives me a litany of medicines to take.
In a pandemic that has gripped the world, trust me to be a complete pillock. A pea-brain. A dunderhead. I have completely lost my bearings, navigating my pushcart in a sardine-packed supermarket the other evening, looking for my sister, getting whatever my hand could reach—chopped ham, lentils, chicken soup, fish crackers, hand wipes, two bottles of olive oil, linguine, jalapeños—before I hear a voice: is that your doomsday stash? I suppose it is.
Isn’t it enough, the grief I had to live with for awhile. Isn’t it enough, with the volcano raining ash on the city. Isn’t it enough to listen to him say, I don’t think it’s working. Isn’t it enough that I cry seeing Italians sing from balconies. Isn’t it enough that I know how joy can last a mere two seconds and yet understand that it was all worth it?
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AddendumAnd isn’t it enough that the mind’s caliper
widens to take in a log, can also
accommodate the hollow bones of a blackbird
flying elliptically to pinion a field,
does not overlook the sun bleaching the sky,
or how pinecone trees effloresce
into a highrise of spiny sea urchins and then
handgrenades frozen at the moment of explosion,
and never misses the dark hot muscle of a tuna;
I’ve got lots of sensibility and no common sense;
isn’t it better to lie low while the universe bombards,
to ride out the pendulation of the seasons,
straining not so often to embrace the moon, but more
to render it embraceable; isn’t it enough
that one branch, rocking before a storm, can gather
the lines of twilight like threads in cool fresh sheets;
and isn’t it enough that all creeks flow seaward;
isn’t it enough that riverbanks come in pairs?
This poem appeared in Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems by Diane Ackerman, published by Vintage Books, 1993. Shared here with profound gratitude.
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Explore poems in pursuit of: grace • questions • the universe • Or browse the index [/expand] [expand title=”Dear Reader” tag=”h6″]
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I hope you will be well. Your entries are like verses in themselves: thank you for creating beauty despite your pain.
I work in public health and we don’t make much room for the grief and pain that is happening on the ground and in our own families. I’m so sorry for your pain. Your words are critical and a lighthouse to me. When have we ever needed poetry more? Ackerman is illuminating, but your words before are what brought me to my knees, where I should be.