by Theodora Goss
I had my list.
At the top it said To Do
and the date. It was organized
so neatly, with all the items
prioritized, with all I had to do
presented so clearly, completely.
I had already started checking off
some of the items:
— grade these assignments
— answer those emails
— do laundry.
And then there was a knock
on the door, an unexpected
interruption. Of course I answered.
After all, it might have been an emergency.
But no, it was just a poem,
wanting to talk.
So I made it some tea. What
do you want to talk about? I asked.
The sky, of course. It was bleak, gray,
a suitable backdrop for the black branches
silhouetted against it. And the seagulls
that perch on the pier posts,
indicating that yes, you have reached the ocean,
yes, the ineffable lies just beyond
those wooden planks, the waves of it
shifting, gray and white, giving you no answers.
And then it got onto
the lighthouse, which was some kind of metaphor,
and how quietly the snow falls,
blanketing us all in white,
like a shroud — not that, I said —
please, no clichés. Would you like
another cup of tea? It’s cold outside.
Yes, said the poem. I have a bit of a sore throat.
I’ve been depressed, can you tell?
When I come back in spring, I’ll talk about —
no, not daffodils, that’s been done.
I’ll talk about hellebores and snowdrops
and hope. By this time
I was hopelessly off my schedule.
I would never get through my list.
But when they come to you, the poems,
with their threadbare clothes, holes
in their shoes, their trousers and shirt collars
much mended, their skirts patched,
wearing second-hand coats, what can you do
but let them in,
offer them tea and biscuits,
sit and listen?
(The image is The Tea by Mary Cassatt.)