A meta-retrospective: looking back on a couple of poems I’ve written over the past several years about looking backward.
It was a country of castles, I decided:
Schloss Oberhausen and Hofberg and Passau,
mine yellow where Neuschwanstein was pink,
broad and commanding,
my easter-egg kingdom.
The oceans of wheat gold and up-blue were mine, see,
because their paths were my bike width and a half
and even white and December-rendered they bore
the imprints of my dominion.
And I was run-happy and heady with possession because
the tadpoles did my bidding and the trees remembered
my openings and the birdwatcher built me a hut to read in,
and the summers were strawberries
blackberries gooseberries cherries and redcurrants.
I think I was fuller then but maybe it was because
I was small and easier to fill, and the swing in the
back of the backyard let me color in my extra spaces with the sky.
And when my ambition for the things I was told to wait to grow into
seized me and chased me out
I landed in picket-fence paradise to discover that kids here
didn’t really know how to share what was already theirs
and in my haste I’d forgotten to suck back
the me that had seeped out into my gold-blue afternoons.
Now my yellow castle’s been reinhabited and misfurnished
and new daydreamy berry-stained children grate
snowballs into parmesan on my mesh metal tables
and their two-wheel bikes wobble where my training wheels clattered
and they bend the subjects to their own bidding.
Well, let them. I’d rather it them than me
trapped in the glass of their kingdom,
as their ever-bigger footprints mash out
the little ones and pastels go out of fashion
and what’s left of the creeping magic is
jumbled up with the brand-new busy-ness
that tips them upside down and empties the sky all out.
Ten of Twenty
Where is she, that half-me, that self-contained storyteller
swingset-swinging in trees she’d leaved with possibilities?
Where are her beach tears, salty expressions of relief in finally
meeting this ocean she carries in her brimming, sloshy bucket of a chest?
Who taught her, good-naturedly, to pour out that water, slice
herself up, and pack the bits into boxes, skintight for shipping?
She rolled over and woke me up into a bright-pixelled reality
sending me greased with pride into a blue truth we’d vowed against.
Sometimes, running in tunnels and on hilltops I holler, “Helloooo
(echo echoo), where did you go?”
From the post office, where she’s collecting and reassembling
the bits that come back with return slips, refilling them, she calls back to me.
Contact Sonnet Phelps at [email protected].