There must be better ways than saying “no”
Three poems by Rachel Hadas
- Each dawn is an amazement.
- From the subterranean corridors of night,
- my slippery crags and sucking mudslides,
- desperate scrambles, floundering through snow,
- wallowing waist-deep through murky waters.
- Your maze of unlit streets, criss-crossing freeways,
- cars locked in black garages underground:
- our separate struggles to get from one place to another.
- From these stale quests we wake to morning light
- and one another. There cannot be enough
- of these golden dawns.
- Each day is an addition and subtraction.
- Is life designed to lure us or to wean us?
- Were we intended to be so voracious?
- Mornings, mornings: days, weeks, months, and years.
- Astonishment may be softening into habit,
- and I bless habit and I bless routine.
- But I am still surprised by joy each morning
- when I wake next to you.
- I looked so hard for the answer
- it seemed better to stop looking.
- The geese are flying. Omens swerve past in the sky
- when we’re not paying attention.
- “Best practice” was the phrase I heard myself using
- when I turned down an innocent request:
- “It isn’t the best practice.”
- I may have misused the phrase, which I had borrowed.
- How else does one learn language?
- There must be better ways than saying No.
- The geese are flying,
- oracles at an angle in the sky.
Head of the Table
- Not too long after my father died,
- I began to forget him in motion.
- I did retain a picture of him sitting
- at the head of the table. Writing? No.
- He must have written his books in his locked office.
- Once each book was lost done, my mother
- went down on her hands and knees on the living room rug
- and sorted index cards. My father sat
- at the head of the table and bounced me on his knee.
- He was a toaster, I was a slice of bread.
- He popped me up and buttered me all over.
- The last page of “Walden” tells of a “strong and beautiful bug”
- emerging from the “leaf of an old table
- which had stood in a farmer’s kitchen for sixty years.
- What beautiful and winged life,” asks Thoreau,
- “may unexpectedly come forth?”
- A memory I thought had taken flight
- has fluttered back to the table where it was born
- where I now sit and write.
Rachel Hadas is the author of many books of poetry, essays, and translations. She is Board of Governors Professor of English at the Rutgers University-Newark (NJ), where she has taught for many years. Her new books are Questions in the Vestibule (April 2016, Northwestern University Press) and Talking to the Dead (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2015).