It’s raining, spattering drops across the dusty road. Walking, head down against the rain, I see a scrap of heavy paper stuck against a mailbox. It’s wet and torn, covered with handwriting. It invites a look. Was it dropped, thrown away? I won’t know.
Curious, I bend to peel it off the mailbox. The paper is thick, but soaked and begins to tear. I let go and a sudden gust of wind rattles the paper off the mail box and is slaps into the street. Suddenly it seems important to me and I don’t want to lose it.
I chase it, squishing through a puddle. This piece of paper better be good. It’s hard to read the cramped handwriting. The ink is not smeared, although the paper is soaked. The author is Jane Greer. Someone copied her poem carefully onto a piece of paper. I read it.
Deep in his muddy memory, something makes
A ripple on the smallest space of thick
and enigmatic water, something breaks
a thin stiff shaft of reed, grazes a stick
with wing or fin; disturbs the mist. He wakes.
The pre-dawn clamor in the fluent air
cannot drown out the subtle sound that aches
In his hollow cattail bones, and rattles there.
What could it be, this sound or rushing where
There are no wings, this snap of twig in rain,
Startling in the eye’s white corner, hair
Rising on the arms again and again?
Nothing. An absence: losses beyond repair,
Forfeitures, white arms that would not stay
Warm while he learned what early cold he could bear.
The sound he hears are the ones that got away.
Why did someone copy this poem? Did they intend to send it to someone? Was it a reminder? I’ll dry the paper and put it in my journal, a message from an unknown writer. Months from now, I’ll find it, read it again. Maybe it will spark something interesting. Maybe I’ll just read it again and again.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and a certified creativity coach. She teaches journal writing classes, among other things. To see it all, visit QuinnCreative.com (c) 2007 Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved.