I may have mentioned before how I came to love poetry relatively late in academic life (I’m too lazy to go look it up for sure). Because it took me so long to admit that I loved poetry, but had trouble understanding it, I have yet to really develop my own set of standards for what makes a poem good. All I know are poems I like. I like poems when they speak truth about an experience or a feeling, when they help me relieve those experiences and feelings, or when they talk about something very few people notice. Today’s poem does all of those for me. Johnna Benson Cornett is an LDS author who has worked on Segullah: Writings by Latter-day Saint Women. This poem is included in the anthology the mother in me: Real World Reflections on Growing into Motherhood. I think this poem is also a good example of musicality in poetry without having a sing-songy, nursery rhyme feel. I hope you enjoy it. Readers, how do you define good poetry?
we all hate to be alone
Johnna Benson Cornett
we all hate to be alone, oh my child.
i feel your heart knock against my hand,
your shrieks to my shushes; i am here,
yours, so sleep in your little bed.
you may let go of the world; it is here,
it is yours, still, sleep awhile.
we all hate to be alone, we should be trees,
our branches espaliered, in a grid,
and small birds rocking on our hands,
birds shaped by the patting of palms.
we should be twined together, earth and sky.
i am yours, connected; sleep awhile.
we all hate to be alone; so do it,
the bowl of your toothless mouth
opens in its red-pink cry:
this is how we shut one another out,
lost in a maelstrom of dissatisfaction.
i am here, outside; sleep awhile.
we all hate to be alone, and for that
you are always found on my fingers,
your pale hair, the clench of your hand,
the pleasant folds of your limbs,
the dance of caress, all day long.
i am here, let go; sleep awhile.