When I Published My Poetry Collection
Wordsworth confessed his chagrin.
To call such jottings poetry ranks with the profane.
A poem first must lift us to a higher plane.
Mary Oliver suggested I should honor nature more.
To watch a great heron soar up from the swamp
on an early morning walk along the shore.
The bard remarked,
This writing does not sing and heaven knows
what is not lyrical must be prose
On the other hand, Michael Palmer insisted
Make the reader work for it.
To just give your ideas away is passé.
Dante gave this advice:
Do a little chapbook of elegies and dirges.
As for the rest, forget paradise.
Emily Dickinson said my poems failed
to take off the top of her head
she wondered too about my inner life.
But Keats found my book full
of truth and beauty and that
is all I need to know.
-- Phyllis Teplitz
Nights in the darkroom, I hoarded
my daughter’s gestures,
the way she straddled a picnic bench
or lifted one hand as if to stroke
silk, the softest feathers.
It was her last year at home.
I’d worked to capture everything,
labeled the boxes of negatives—
camping, prom dress, Christmas.
Stirring prints beneath an amber light,
I waited for my girl’s face to surface,
faint at first on the soaked paper,
pale as a night-blooming flower.
Time, which to a photographer
is both tool and the thing transcended,
worked against me too. She would go.
Even in that sealed room,
I felt the season turn.
-Atlanta Review, 2007
-- Sharon Fain