Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Take Nothing For Granted: Kate Barnes on “The Knife’s Edge”

              When I woke up this morning
          I found I was writing a poem in my dream
          and the only line I could hold on to
          was: take nothing for granted.

          So I will write down that one line
          and go looking for the rest;
          I will take nothing for granted.
from “The Knife’s Edge” by Kate Barnes

For the past week, since the midpoint of our current National Poetry Month, I have been discovering, with joy, the stanzas of the late Kate Barnes, who served as Maine’s first official Poet Laureate from 1996 to 2000. I started reading Where the Deer Were, from which “The Knife’s Edge” is taken, and will go to Kneeling Orion later this year. I come to Barnes because of my newfound fondness for Maine (after visiting there too briefly a couple of years ago), but I stay for the crystal-clear imagery and plain-spoken language of her poetry.

This morning, “The Knife’s Edge” sings to me, calls to me. I, too, have had poems (and stories, and entire chapters of books) vanish from my head before I could commit their words to paper. I try to hold them in place, preserve their syllables and consonants, promise myself I’ll get to them later, only to find that Distraction and Interruption have burned them away like morning mist meeting the sunrise. Thought turns to vapor, vapor evaporates into nothing.

Only an hour after waking, I already feel the tug-and-shove of the encroaching day. The distracted busy-ness of phone calls, emails, and report-filing will greet me with open arms at work in an hour, but they can wait. For now, they can wait. I hold up my hands, on either side of my body, palms out like a traffic cop halting the flow of cars, like a modern Moses parting the sea of paperwork. For now, I am trying to be still in this moment, this short, warm moment where I can live inside a poem and listen to its refrain: take nothing for granted, take nothing for granted.

No comments:

Post a Comment