Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The Patience of Metal

Two things to start off: 1) I can read poetry in the middle of the night 2) today's immediate coincidence is tools. In my first two Sealey Challenge blog posts this year, I've mentioned the men working in a neighbor's back yard, and here on the cover of The Patience of Metal, by Yvonne Zipter (Hutchinson House, 1990), are tools: hammer, saw, ax, and awl (?), in a photograph by Patricia Bechdolt. But I think the patience of metal might be how hot it can get waiting to be what it really is.

     And I am white hot,
     for a smithy,
     the careful taps and blows
     that leave me ringing...

I can't believe I hadn't read this book until now, as I am an admirer (and previous reviewer) of Zipter's work. True, in 1990, when it was published, I was busy having a baby. And I love the poems about various children in the "Learning to Dare" section of this book. So much joy and hope. Elsewhere, there is so much loss and grief, and a devastating "Daddy" poem of early trauma. And such beautiful poems about the death of a beloved mother. In "Oral History,"

     I hate talking to you like this,
     death between us like a stuck door.
     We should be sitting at a kitchen table,
     cups of hot coffee (decaf), steam
          curling across your dry cheek, you
     telling me about my childhood, yours,
     talking about operations, lovers, scars,
     asking questions
     we never dared or didn't know
     to ask. This is a tradition
     among women: oral history.
     So much irreplaceable
     has been lost.

What has been lost is somehow found in the poem "That Much," a happy memory that might be mostly imagined, a "frozen moment that most likely / never happened.

          ...We are smiling, silent
     except for love. That much
     is real.

And, speaking of reality, Zipter's poem "Reality" is a wonderfully prescient and pertinent philosophical ramble on it: "Reality / is as hard to pin down as a politician / or an angry kid."

I love this book, and love reading it late, as I know the newfound love, patiently waited for, was real, has lasted, has lived many anniversaries beyond its charming, goofy one-year "Anniversary Waltz." And I love how the last poem, "Loss," turns about to be a funny, sweet poem not really about loss!

     I don't want to lose you, I whisper.
     "Like at the mall?" you say,
     infusing the dark with light.
     Yes, at the mall.

I'll leave the rest for you to find.

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