Monday, July 12, 2010

Tuesday Poem, LITTLE MIRACLE IN LAKELAND, Melissa Green


Clouds and mist enshroud Lake Morton,
shawling cypresses knee-deep in shallows,
leaving a silver beaded net in the palm trees' hair.
We sit on a dewy bench, my sister and I,
immobilized by five excitable ibis
wading near us. A Little Blue Heron
hunches and shakes itself.
A lone pelican stares and looks away.
Black and white Muscovy ducks are laughing,
wattle-red wens mottling their faces.
A homely wood stork with its punk cut
can't look at us at all. A Great White Heron
tweezes a spiny fish, holds it, snaps
its pincer beak, holds it, snaps it
to a final soft swallow. Cruciform,
an anhinga stands on a rock to dry its wings.
Out on the water, two white swans gossip
and a black swan hurries its cygnets to school.
We barely breathe. After twenty-five years,
we sit calmly, without guilt or envy or injury.

Suddenly from the First United Methodist Church
behind us, a joyous carillon begins. The larger birds
hunker awkwardly and fly out of the left-hand frame.
The surface of the lake is all commotion and bright wings:
the smaller startled birds are paddling into a flotilla
led by the swans, and even the water is coming in
in rhyming pinions. The ducks are bobbing their rumps
in time to the bells, and ruffling wings keep landing,
swimming into place, filling the water in a vee formation,
and migrating birds keep swimming for the other shore
as though they'd been called.
                                  I wondered then which
was  more astonishing -- the way the clouds rolled up
the scrim of mist from the proscenium and the birds
pulled down the sun, uncurling to the rhythm of the bells
its brightening watered silk behind them -- or my sister and I,
our holding hands, as though we'd always done it.

by Melissa Green

I'm sorry that I was so slow in responding to Mary McCallum's wonderful request for a poem from Melissa Green. Our time differences were about half an hour off....but here, at least, is the poem.........from her book, Daphne in Mourning, soon to be published by the Pen & Anvil Press. 

Her first book of poems, The Squanicook Eclogues, won the Norma Farber Award from the Poetry Society of America 1989 and the Lavan Younger Poets Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Recently it was reissued by the Pen & Anvil Press. A second book of poems, Fifty-Two, was published by Arrowsmith Press in 2007. Color is the Suffering of Light: A Memoir was published by W.W. Norton & Co, 1995.

(I'm glad to have had a chance to present this particular poem about reconciliation (and perhaps forgiveness.) For me, typing it was a way of moving more deeply into the images, a privilege for me that unfortunately offers the chance that I haven't caught all my inevitable mistakes. They are mine, not Melissa Green's.)


  1. Magnificent. Melissa's poetry always feels so sure and so uncertain, so weighted and so open to the sky. It's wonderful to read it again. The delicacy and commotion of this particular poem is wonderfully achieved and the ending unmoors me. The sweep of it! From the clouds rolling back to the two clasped hands. More of Melissa's poems please Melissa! And I am so sorry we didn't get our times in sync for the Tuesday poem hub - but when it's your turn you could always reprise Little Miracle...

  2. And for your blog readers - here's the link for Tuesday Poem of which Melissa Shook's blog is but a part...

  3. I'm late to this event, Melissa, but the poem is wonderful. There's something wonderful about sisters and reconciliation.

  4. the smaller startled birds are paddling into a flotilla
    led by the swans, and even the water is coming in
    in rhyming pinions.

    Terrific--the beats and daring enjambments--preparing us for the conclusion, a miracle in language as well, it seems, in life.