07 March 2010

by any other name---

these past two weeks i've been helping one of my students write an essay on helen keller. i've been really inspired as well. both of us have been inspired. writing on and off the essay topic, inspired by the persistence, the strength and the courage of helen keller and the details that surround us, those that we walk past and never notice, and the ones we stop and think about with respect to helen.

we were taking notice of the small details around us -- sight -- sound -- words spoken -- songs -- laughter -- rain -- conversation -- shadows -- with new eyes we saw the sounds and heard the words. the other day at the cafe where we meet i told her just to take a few minutes, look around, and see what was there. next thing i knew, i tried to talk to her and she held up her hand, mumbling something to indicate that i shouldn't bother her. she was very busy scribbling something down. "oooh you're gonna loooove this" she squealed with delight as she was writing. in about three minutes, the 11-year-old girl who came to work with me in september and told me proudly "i hate writing" had written this poem:

What Helen Should Have

the sun on a rainy day,
people in the café,
a look in a good book,
the way the cloud sway,
that’s what i see today. 

then we were on the phone this afternoon finishing up her essay that's due tomorrow and we --sidetracked momentarily-- were discussing the performance of the school play willy wonka and the chocolate factory that she was in last night. she started counting for me, the number of roses she received after the performance,"i got a lot of red ones... and some pink... and-- "

i heard her telling me the colors of the roses, yet underneath, my mind wondered as it was already composing this next bit that i've now finished writing below......

the roses as helen knew, as i hold them in mind.

they were never yellow, never red, nor pink, purple, white or speckled. they were r-o-s-e-s spelled in hand. they were never admired from afar, or on the kitchen table, never seen from the window. they were touched, learned from fingertips and palms, yet as far as i can see...

the smell was as sweet, perhaps sweeter, but more dangerous to the touch-- causing pain without warning, a disguise, enticed, by the pleasing scent above the stem... nature's silent way, to illustrate for helen, to warn, that nothing sweet can be held, can touch without moments of unexpected pain t-h-o-r-n soft petals at fingertips release with the breath of dusk into helen's trusting palm p-e-t-a-l. under her bare feet on the grass, the rose petals tickle helen with secrets as they fall one-by-one but she doesn't notice as the petals fall from her rose, from her fingers to the ground and touch her feet and the toes that hide in between blades of grass, never knowing a color of greenest green, or yellow petals at her feet.

the fragrant petals just fallen in the air faint perfume lingers in her nose, in her fingers that believe they will once again reach out and grasp-- and bring light to her face. she reaches once more, not knowing that what was once there will never be, has fallen at her feet, and thus believing and trusting--  the prick on her finger from the thorn of what remains from the beauty of what was once, of what was just-- of what was lost-- aches, unexpected blood unseen, and sudden movement away from uncertainty, the blood-stained finger and her hand brushes past the bush where red roses grow and the scent turns her head familiar, new, and knowing now, and trying once more. reaching higher this time with experience, for if one reaches higher, with more caution, perhaps the soft scented object of desire will come into hand, gently reaching with certainty-- seen or unseen-- pain will be avoided, not forever, but in this moment.

and not knowing the richness of the iridescent crimson glimpse of that red r-o-s-e she gently caresses in her palm, she knows. bringing her nose, her eyes, her lips, to the open petals that welcome her; and no one hears her laughter, but her laughter, and roses, fragrant vibrations fill the air, and roses are experienced, not seen, their colors are touched, embraced, fallen and held, never peach or violet, crimson or yellow. delicate p-e-t-a-l-s blush with fragrance. laughter paints the roses colors vivid as your presence, feel them bloom in season-- in turn-- in pain-- in palm-- in faith-- unseen lessons love tangible in essence unexpected detail the r-o-s-e as sweet, by any other name---


1 comment:

hames1977 said...


i am mesmerized by the beauty of your words. indeed there is a tapestry of silken words here. is this prose-poem? i am lost in wonder and delight. there is a jewel box of words within you and it never run dry. and the many colors of this poem have vividly swarmed in my mind like butterflies. thank you for your gift of words.