Wednesday, March 29, 2017

“Stranded” by Loretta Diane Walker

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Stranded” by Loretta Diane Walker, the winner the 2016 Phyllis Wheatley Book Award for poetry for her collection In This House.  “Stranded” was a finalist in the 2017 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest.

Walker received a BME from Texas Tech University and earned an MA from The University of Texas of the Permian Basin.  She teaches music in Odessa, Texas, where the Heritage Council of Odessa recently named her “Statesman in the Arts”.  Walker is a recent breast cancer survivor. She believes this is one of the greatest gifts in her life.

In addition to a previous appearance in Songs of Eretz  http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/search?q=Loretta+Diane+Walker, Walker’s work has appeared in numerous publications, most recently: River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the 21st Century, Her Texas, Texas Poetry Calendar, Pushing Out the Boat International Journal, San Pedro River Review, Illya’s Honey, Red River Review, Diversity: Austin International Poetry Festival, Boundless Poetry: Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival, Pushing the Envelope: Epistolary Poems,  Perception Literary Magazine, Connecticut River Review, The Houston Poetry Festival, Bearing the Mask: Personal Poems of the Southwest, and Yellow Chair Review.  Her manuscript Word Ghetto won the 2011 Bluelight Press Book Award.

Stranded
Loretta Diane Walker

 "Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold."
~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~ Sonnets to Orpheus, Part 1, IV

Your tiny fists curl into eternity.
She longs to feel your tears on her shoulders,
hungry cries echoing in the yawning loneliness of her ears.
She wants to walk the floors with you in her arms.
She will accept fatigue as companion if…
If only…
 
She is stranded on an island of memory.
Marooned with thoughts of your head
thrusting through her thighs,
hands reaching for the lamp of morning,
and the earth swallowing your small coffin.
She watches others escape into the mocking horizon.
For three months the air was your playmate.
When she held you, you kicked-boxed
with its nitrogen filled stomach.

On this hot spring afternoon, she stares out the window;
your name is quiet on her tongue.
Rain was loose with her favors this season.
A riot of bluebonnets and Indian Paint Brush stagger
across the Texas hillside; their petal-heads scream beauty.
Little One, do me a favor.
Loose your forgiveness in the mouth of your playmate;
your mother needs to feel it.
She lives her life ashamed of happiness.
She lives her life clutching a memory she cannot hold.

Poets Notes: Ten years ago my niece and her husband lost their only son due to respiratory problems. He was three-months old.  They have four girls and live full lives, but genuine happiness seems to escape my niece. It teeters around her. When we have family gatherings, she reminds us that she has five children. We have not forgotten him; we have learned to live fully. I desire that for her, too. I wish there were some way her baby boy could give her permission to live a happy, full life.

Editor's Note:  What a moving elegy!  The narrative comes across as being based upon personal experience, as sadly it turns out to be.  Such genuineness is one of the hallmarks of a great poem.

Comments by Contest Judge Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, PhD:  Right away, I was drawn to some of the very unique images, such as “....the earth swallowing your tiny coffin” and how much it conveyed in the size. “For three months the air was your playmate” is also very evocative (and heartbreakingly beautiful). The address to the little one in the final stanza is also very tender, and repeating the “She lives her life...” works well in showing the tension between what's lost and how life goes on regardless. Most of all, I was moved by the plea for forgiveness and peace that permeate this whole poem.

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