Mary Romero – Five Poems
All We Can See
To watch my daughters in the garden,
to heed them scattering seeds, pebbles,
grains of sand and dust, detritus
dropped from the ceiling of the world.
To see in this small scene, the universe:
they are perambulating planets
circling their sun, scooping and flinging
stars – the curved willow, a milky way.
Its fallen leaves, stardust.
They are wading in stardust.
To imagine they are microscopic:
my varied offspring – one proton
one neutron – electrifying each other,
a shimmying nucleus encircled.
Or, to notice only what is: this
violet iris, those braids of hair,
the friction of play making flyaways
flicker in the fading sun.
These red bricks – no – this spectrum
of color: coral russet rouge
brushed with beige mortar.
This bench that holds my gravity.
The horizon’s glow almost gone
as the girls stride up the steps.
The lights of night now punching through
the blue-black sky, their particles
ever descending upon our atmosphere.
We are all waiting in stardust.
Fleet, flit-winged things
rev their propellers
and hover above
the crimson landing
of a well of nectar – sugar
makes them return again.
One summer my daughter,
turning one, sugared
from her first taste of cake,
spied them on the porch,
a watchdog at her post,
eyes clamped open
and drinking in
the sight of these never-stilling
bullets, beaked and inching closer.
They buzzed away and left her
so panting for breath, her eyes rolled
and she fell asleep, or fainted.
We’d laugh about that day,
her hyperventilated nap after
clapping eyes on the iridescent,
near-invisible wings displacing
air with impossible clamor.
But here, now, one hammers
only a foot from me.
The only response: heart-hummed,
breath-sunk and eyes-stung
by the beaded gaze of this
utter otherness which could
pierce me with its speed.
finds me wanting, and flies away.
And I am left
not knowing whether
I had wished it found me sweet
~ for Lucy Grace, at 14 Months
Wordless still, you sing all day.
Lips and tongue voyage
the new and ancient seas
of sound, making your own
swells and ripples;
wonders to enunciate.
In your humming,
something of you escapes:
your joy, your sadness,
hover over us,
a gull over waters.
Today, two notes peal:
one low, one rising,
a bell ringing you
through your day.
What comes over you
all at once,
my tender translator,
that these notes
should sound and sound?
In the evening,
we sing grace
and I place them:
the first two notes
in a song of thanks.
My gift to you
imperfect sight, the cradle of my voice,
rivers of hair, my sea of bones
now shared between you,
nets lifted from my body
to feed other streams
you will share yourselves
giving their bodies to the sea
and already I am struck
to see my gifts to you taken
broken, offered sacrificially
my girl of fierce surf,
my calming breeze
will be like Pygmalion’s statue
carved by your need
into something living
your gift to me.
The Storm in My Yard
The sun cloaked for days, spring
blossoms ripped by storm,
the hammock stand becomes a boat
with billowing sail, flown and sunk,
fabric snaking in the lake
now in our yard:
a new kingdom with bridges
of felled pecan, and occupants
eddying within its newfound borders –
worms whisked up from crevices,
gondolas of leaves housing spiders,
ants columning up the porch rail,
thrown now and then by wind;
we seek in all destruction to make something
of the world – some life that will persist
or reinvent itself again, resilient;
our questions sometimes climbing,
sometimes thrown to the wind.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
The poet-philosopher, John O’Donohue, points out that in Greek the words for beauty and calling are from the same root. In many ways, our human vocation is to notice and respond to beauty, to the Great Beauty, which both calls us home to itself and out again into the world which we are called to beautify in our particular ways.
In myself, I notice that a failure to apprehend beauty is usually a failure to attend, especially to attend to what is near and real in the world around me. Even a glorious vista can fail to inspire if the viewer is inattentive. And in our world today, where my attention bounces from thought to text to social media and soundbites, I become desperate for the attention that beauty requires of me, of all of us. (Poetry demands such attention as well: it is a practice of paying attention, like prayer.)
Sometimes, children are the best witnesses of beauty (to us who often fail to notice it.) I still remember from a decade ago a 7-year old Afghani refugee, who had recently moved to our street. He visited our backyard while we were working in it and bent toward a blooming gardenia, his face becoming radiant. And he exclaimed, “This is like a perfume I smelled once back in my country.” Beauty brought him home. Beauty calls all of us home.
When not scratching out poems, Mary Romero works as an Anglican deacon and as a mother of two lovely hooligans. She likes storytelling, drinking whiskey on the porch, and taking dips in a swimming hole when it’s sweltering hot in her current home of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Romero’s chapbook Philoxenia received two awards including The Luci Shaw Prize in Creative Writing. Since then, some of her work has been published in Birmingham Poetry Review, Southwestern American Literature, and Prism International, among other journals.