Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Dutch House

My friend Kim recommended the book The Dutch House to me--by Ann Patchett--and I just finished it.  I was struck, on p. 287, by the phrase "she could have been anyone's mother, but she was mine." I recognized it! I had written it, I thought, though in the present tense, in a poem, a poem my own mother loves. It was one of those odd, slightly scary moments--a mix of fear of plagiarism and the delightful shock of recognition of an emotional or psychological truth.

My poem, "Local Patterns," was published way back in 2011 in Soundzine, an online magazine, that appears not to exist anymore. The link I had for it connects to a danger message. Then it was published as the "L" poem in my chapbook ABCs of Women's Work, published by Red Bird in 2015. The Dutch House was published in 2019, so this is 1) coincidence and/or 2) nothing I need to fear! Which is not to say that I think Ann Patchett somehow read my poem and echoed me. No, it's a strange little frisson that wiggles through me. And then to realize we have somehow echoed each other is a comfort, in various ways.

I love this book--the quiet mystery, the intricate family relationships, the love and compassion.

And here is my poem:

Local Patterns

A man and a woman walk miles together
on sand, luminous shell.

What made them last?
What made them wash up whole?

In winter, a train pauses beside golden weeds, nothing
blooming, patchy snow.

Nobody needs to get anywhere fast. 
Who told us to strive?

Broken open in the spring
a seedpod reveals

the local patterns of the wind.
A scientist draws that picture with a stylus

on a pad, and now we know
what that picture looks like.

On a shelf over my desk is a photograph
of my mother before I knew her,

looking back over her dark shoulder,
smiling, the corner creased.

She could be anyone’s mother,
but she is mine.

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