A piece of the world is in a clay pot,
earth for which I will be the rain.
And the pot itself came from the earth, clay
a different density from the airy dark soil
that welcomes roots. Whenever I see cooks
mash potatoes now, or roll a crust to hold
the sliced honeyed apples, I see the tree,
I see the fruit, I see the earth that held the spuds,
I see the clay that made the pot that holds
my ferns, and the potter who kneaded clay
like dough, who rolled it, and molded it,
I see the earth itself a kiln
glazing balls of clay,
taking sand, melting it to glass.
WHAT I TAUGHT HER
My student refuses to argue about anything.
Her brother died young,
a terrible death she nursed him through,
of A.I.D.S.. Her husband’s brother
likewise died young
of A.I.D.S. I do not like
to correct my students’ grammar
or their spelling.
Everything is luck and choice,
and we can’t blame the past
for what a person chooses
to do with their lives, she wrote.
We all have many lives, I wrote,
as cats do, but a person, I wrote,
still chooses ‘his or her lives’ or life.
Please make an argument.
Do not assume everything
is without causality.
I did not write:
as your mother has taught you.
She wrote: Some nights
my husband and I
lie in bed wondering out loud
about our brothers,
and our son
who almost died in his first year
of lung trouble, which he survived.
Fight with words, I tell her,
as you fought for your son’s life.
She does. She learns to argue.
It is less important than how
she and her husband
found each other,
about which I know nothing,
or about what it means
to lose a sibling young
to sexual love
with such a kicker,
and if it matters
how a child dies young.
DOG OUTRUNNING PEOPLE
I saw today a woman who has a kind of chariot, now,
in lieu of legs that work on their own power,
she stands as she can, tall,
perched high on the platform of her rolling machine,
and her white dog races with her, she racing him
on her powerful motor, both running past Hilly’s Brook,
her second husband with her, then letting her go,
letting the dog exercise faster, on his lead, than anyone
our age could run for long on two legs.
She was laughing as she passed me,
stopped at Hilly’s Brook where the arched branch
completes a circle with its reflection.
The dog was panting, as dogs do,
instead of perspiring at the exertion,
as her writings have told for years
the effort of holding together
children, routine, school, space,
memory, her will to love,
start again unflagged and undeterred,
while everything broke
and she kept everything running.
Her face is hers, and beautiful,
her hands strong on the handlebar.
Her pleasure is too strong for her smile to hold it.
She is laughing as she passes and the white dog
looks back. She adjusts the controls and catches up.
Evenly they move away from me, still stopped,
to look at the slow flowing water, the tree,
the circle the branch makes with its reflection,
and I nod to her husband watching her far up ahead.
He is walking with delight, alone.
Liz Socolow won the Barnard Poetry Prize for her book length collection
Laughing at Gravity: Conversations with Isaac Newton, and the single poetry
prize for 2006 from Isotope Magazine, and in 2005 from CV2, Canada’s
premier poetry journal. She spent her work life in classrooms
teaching poetry and literature to students of all ages and is now doing that
work with the Evergreen forum at the Suzanne Patterson Center for Senior
Citizens in Princeton. She lives in Lawrenceville with hundreds
of plants and is the mother of two grown sons, and the grandmother of three