You’ve probably heard the writing advice: show, don’t tell. It sounds easier than it is sometimes. I would like to just write, “I’m sad! I hurt! Love is so so so hard!” and have you get exactly how I feel.
Alas, it does not work that way. A skilled writer knows this. Thus, I introduce you to Barbara Costas-Biggs.
She and I know each other primarily via social media—ye olde Twitter and the Facebook—but she lives in my home state, and if I drive to where I grew up, I travel right through her city. I always think of her when I do now. She and I went to the same MFA program, at different times, and I know her, too, from the poetry I have read of hers. I give you a Barbara poem as the fourth installment of my National Poetry Month celebration.
How I Spent My Day, Two Years After My Father’s Death
for Tom Rogowski
Morning, February, a bit brighter every
day. One boy, Cheerios, an argument
about sugar. The other, a poached egg.
Toast. Sleep-stumbling the house in my bathrobe,
searching for matching socks, dump laundry
baskets for clean shirts, the right pants
for each child. Brew coffee.
There is a picture of my father hanging
in my dining room. Montana, a window in a barn.
Stalk of wheat in his mouth. It is a recreation
of a photo taken 45 years ago. Save
for the wheat. 45 years ago it was a Marlboro.
Load the dishwasher to save the trouble
of doing it in the evening. I wonder
why I don’t usually do this, but I know
why. I’m never this meticulous, this
focused in the almost-dark of almost-spring
mornings, or any mornings at all.
There is a picture of my father on my
living room bookshelf. It’s a selfie he sent.
He’s half-in, half-out of the frame. Napa, my brother’s
courtyard. My mother, my brother, his girlfriend
waving. Tomato plants vine up the fence,
they have glasses of wine, fresh bruschetta.
Pull a hot bath. I’m at my mother’s house.
She is with my brother in Texas. I have
wine. I have words rattling in the back
of my head. My small dog curls on the bathmat,
settles in for as long as I might take.
There is a picture of my father with my niece.
My father at my brother’s wedding. A portrait
of my parents on a wedding anniversary. Caption:
“Still crazy after 39 years.” A photo of my mother
and father on her dresser, at my uncle’s wedding. I’ve always
teased her that she had Marilyn Quayle hair.
Start supper, wine-stumbling in the kitchen
playlist stuck on “America”:
Alexa, play “America”
again (empty and aching but I don’t know why)
and I’ll end the day the same way it started:
dumping the baskets, this time for pajamas.
Wondering what was out that Montana barn window.
Thank you, Barbara Costas-Biggs, for sharing your poem with me and with us for National Poetry Month.
Every week this month—National Poetry Month—I am offering up a poem in hopes that those who already love poetry will discover a new poet, and in hopes that those who don’t normally read poetry find poems that are accessible and that speak to them, too. My friend, Robert McCready, is reciting each poem, so have a listen here to Barbara’s work. Next week I will wrap up the celebration by featuring a poem by Romy Lanier Cawood (yes, we are related).
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Photo of barn by Zachary Sinclair from Unsplash.com