After posting Mary Oliver’s Alligator Poem last week, I decided to try my hand at writing a poem about my biggest fear. Alligators are a phobia of mine, but not something I really worry about here in Minnesota!
I knew my greatest fear was bad news about one of my daughters. Horrible news from a police officer at the door or a doctor armed with charts and x-rays. I went with the police officer at the door and tried to imagine myself in that moment. It was hideous. But I’ve been working on a poem to try to express a little bit of what that moment might be like, and I don’t think I’ll ever really like the poem or get it right, because it’s actually painful to work on. But I’ll throw it out there this week…
he stands at the front door
his face like a rubber sheet
stretched over a toothpick scaffolding
carrying death in the pocket of his
navy blue uniform
orderly, with perfect creases
before another word crawls from his swamp-mouth
who’s not here?
who will never be here again?
then I know
my ribs collapse
shred my empty
my eyes are a blind camera
my legs are just an idea
my life–the future of the world–flashes through my head
raptors screaming toward me, flapping savage wings
mechanized gears grinding into me
trout gasping for water…drying…dying
millions of pixels in chaos that form no picture
ashes pouring down my throat
like a white ash tree’s purple-bruised leaves
—Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved