I had many dreams as a child; two most persistent were to be a nurse and to be a great poet.
I remember when we got our families first TV,
I had learned by then that writing poems
and Ivy halls of learning were not meant for little girls like me
but I still preferred books,
although when I was sick at home,
I loved the gameshow Jeopardy
Once I was paid for my pens production
enough money came in for the words going out to almost feed my family.
I once horrified a television audience when the interviewer asked what I wrote
and I laughed and said I was kind of a print whore, that I would write whatever someone would pay for
and i was paid for what I wrote
even a few times for poetry
and I wasn’t changing the world, the world was changing me.
But I am a nurse now,
Poetic inclinations my private peccadillo.
I sip on Emerson, or Pastan with morning coffee.
Twice traversed Walcott’s Omerus all alone
I nestle in with Frost, Dove or Emily when the comfort of familiar is my need
and I still love Jeopardy.
Answer:W.S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser
Who are the last five Poet Laureate’s of the United States of America.
I knew the answer. And laughed embarrassed that I knew.
Robert Frost was my nursery food, born though I was to Randall Jarrell, I did not read at all until I was three
So learned not of Dying Gods till middle school libraries.
But nurses are a practical lot.
I am a nurse now
and I am afraid
My life is not made up of tortured turns at love that lead to Simic style reverie
And all my pens are trained to report the facts, and only the facts of what I hear and smell and see
on black ink legal records.
My pens rebel, refusing to scratch out a dozen words to symbolize the desert spring.
My hands change beds
Take vital signs
Hold other too hot or too cool hands
My heart listens to regrets and plans.
I once desired to write with art
and move others as the greats moved me
But chose instead to serve with deeds not words
And hope now my hands and heart will substitute for never having made
one verse of worthwhile poetry.