Because it’s based in the sanctities of voice and vision, and because its main function is communication, poetry has the power to forge community. Whether we write to archive experience, validate identity, or posit a new reality, poets welcome readers into a relationship. Like any other relationship, this bond between poet and reader can be loving, or it can be confrontational, or it can be edifying, or it can be supportive, and on and on. The most important element of this bond, though, is connection. And more than ever in human history, we need connection. We need beauty, tolerance, acceptance, clarity. We need the possibility of understanding. Poetry provides a venue for all of these, and more. I know this is why I write. I know this is what I’m trying to do with my poems.
New Growth Moon
If I could, I’d leave low land
and pine forests behind,
…….move away from rivers
…….that ache for my back yard,
merciless Old Testament rains.
Lord, how would it feel
at the base of a mountain range,
…….calm lake in the distance,
…….night breeze whispering
without the smell of storm?
Let me hole up on a porch,
wood creaking under me
…….like a raft. The moon,
…….aglow over settling fog,
could turn treetops into waves.
My mother had mornings to herself
…….most days, kids off to school,
Dad out in the field, eight on,
…….four off. Time to make coffee
in the Dripolator, brown sausage
…….for gravy, bring milk and flour
up to a boil, low and slow. Drop
…….biscuits, cast iron skillets.
No high fires, no cans. No need
…….to talk, unless the phone rang.
Sundays, my daughter wakes me
……..with her breakfast order. She polls
her brothers first, then delivers
…….the menu to me, her voice the most
morning-ready in the house.
…….These days, biscuits and gravy gets
the vote more times than not. Stirring
……..and stories, flour and milk, spoonfuls
of dough baking quick as I can manage
…….before my first cup of coffee brews.
Like Bread for Supper
What—when the wind begins to sing,
and the lake, not yet ready for land,
swells in its giant bowl, and the dog
curls itself up as close to the basket
of warm laundry as it can get
without climbing in—draws her
to spread flour on the counter,
spill risen dough onto the surface
from my mother’s balsa plank,
and lean into the kneading
makes me think of feeding thousands
from two croûtes de pain.
They happen in the kitchen, these visits
with my mother. She’s always working, something
busy, like separating yolks for chix buns.
Alive, she would’ve passed the eggs through her fingers,
letting the whites drip through, holding the yolks
gently in her palm. During these dreams, though,
she uses the shells like they do on cooking shows
passing the yolks from half to half before
dropping them into the mixing bowl. She makes
her dough patiently, without much fuss,
pressing it out and balling it up quietly
in the hollow of an old balsa plank.
When the dough is gold and dense enough,
she raises the plank as high as she can
above her head to place it in the warm spot
on top of the refrigerator. Straining like this
she is so much like herself I can barely breathe.
If I try to help her or open my mouth to speak,
the alarm will go off and morning will burn itself
onto the day. Quiet or not, I can never stay
long enough for the dough to rise, for her
to roll and cut the buns, place them in the oven
on buttered sheets. Even though I’ll wake
before the smell hits me, the taste remains.
Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. His latest collections are Elliptic (Yellow Flag Press, 2016), Revenant (Blue Horse Press, 2016), and Bone-Hollow, True: New & Selected Poems (Texas Review Press, 2013). He has recently been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.