Just when I think I’m not all that interested in poetry, I find something that is amazing, that makes me gasp with pleasure or pain, the way running too-hot water over a patch of poison ivy on your ankle will do. The best poems come alive with memories, right in front of your eyes. This is one of them.

Poem: “Starfish”
Eleanor Lerman, from Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds.

This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, Last night,
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?

Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.

And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.
Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave,
so you’ll have to settle for lucky.) Because you
were born at a good time. Because you were able
to listen when people spoke to you. Because you
stopped when you should have and started again.
So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.

— Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com

8 thoughts on “Poem:Starfish

  1. I like this very much. “Pie for the dog, as well,” indeed. My Rainy House poem has just been published, so you’re welcome to it if you’re still interested. Not sure how much more water-motif poetry the world can use : /

  2. O, to be able to see the connections between things and you and the world and then to be able to write about them so clearly and evocatively and movingly. There were more gifts given here than just “lucky”. Thanks, Quinn, for sharing.

  3. Pingback: This Week's Poetry Across the Web | Writer's Resource Center

  4. This is an exceptional piece of writing. It is so simply written, but not at all simple in its’ depth and message. I’m copying it into my journal as soon as I log out. Thanks for sharing.

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