A Poet a Day 28: Ellen Waterston
Day 28 brings us Oregon poet Ellen Waterston, with a poem entitled “The Artist Feels Small,” from her collection, Between Desert Seasons (© 2008, Wordcraft of Oregon).
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE POEM
Artists and writers wake up to their unique callings every day, only to wake and wake again to new callings but never quite getting over the trick and difficulty of acknowledging, realizing and honoring the truth. In the following poem, our narrator flings a wide-angle lens out to the world, brings the view back to herself, then goes further inward, trying to capture the moment when this life as a writer began.
The Artist Feels Small
Pin-striped brokers wearing black market gold
watches negotiate timber contracts on Russian
forests over dinner in Prague. Medics in white lab
coats wipe fly eggs from the matted eyes of Somali
children under bed nets. Rail thin models giraffe
the Paris runways after a last drag of a Gitane back-
stage. Latino gangs with pierced tongues howl
at midnight in the empty streets of Albuquerque.
And in New York City exotic queens glue silver
feathers to their skin for the gay pride parade.
And I? I search the trash for words to describe,
pile behind me discarded lines, the refuse, the steaming
heap of redo forcing my plastic lawn chair
to the edge of a road lined with dusty date palms
that leads to San somewhere. A caballero on his skinny,
bare-hoofed mount quick-steps by.
I’ll do what I can to fledge a writer’s life of sorts
but these choices are hard. It started when I was small,
and downstairs heard others’ voices or, forgotten inside
my dark and airless playhouse in the middle of the living
room floor, listened in on their conversation. It started when
I stopped to watch the galloping river from a motionless
shore, listened to its instantaneous hello, good-bye.
A Poet a Day is a month-long celebration of poets and poetry, in honor of National Poetry Month. Writers reserve all rights to their work, and all work appears with their permission.