by Best Poem
a word is elegy to what it signifies –
The thinking, old and new, is still about loss-
so many pages filled with decaying Edens:
places where poets, lovers, thoughtful people,
made the old mistake of going back:
Tintern Abbey, blousy with candy wrappers;
Fern Hill faded from carefree green to mud;
New Brunswick woods, crossed by nocturnal buses,
but never bringing forth from scratchy shadows
that perfect, ambling moose, high as a church-
Bishop’s sad-faced harbinger of joy.
Yet even knowing this, I enter the gash
in the chalky hills, try to rekindle the past
with steps that slide on trampled, grubby grass
and search again for my body’s imprint, stretched
deep in daisies, purple clover holding
the shape of someone young, someone flat
on her back, gazing past small brown bees,
the sky smudged with wavering vapor trails
of planes headed south where I always wanted to go.
The word is honeysuckle; the life was sweet.
Judith Barrington is the author of three volumes of poetry: Horses and the Human Soul (2004), History and Geography (1989) and Trying to be an Honest Woman (1985). Her most recent publication is a chapbook of poems: Postcard from the Bottom of the Sea (2008). Her Lifesaving: A Memoir won the 2001 Lambda Book Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and she has won many awards including The Dulwich International Festival Poetry Prize (U.K.), The Clackamas Review Poetry Prize, and The A.C.L.U. of Oregon’s Freedom of Expression Award. She is a faculty member of the University of Alaska’s MFA Program, a mentor for the University of Minnesota’s Split Rock Program, and she teaches for The Poetry School in Britain and Spain.