This poem, the title poem of Libby’s latest poetry book, is really about those juxtapositions we experience as human beings: natural beauty and mechanical noise, great experiences and the stress of modern technology. “Let me be able for this,” is really a borrow from my friends the Ó Súilleabháin brothers, Owen and Moley, two talented and gifted Irish musicians. To be able for something, in Ireland, is to be strong enough, courageous enough, fit for it. And, in the end, it is about experiencing the joys we get from “all of it,” no matter how dark or light. Notice the opposites, throughout.
WHY I LIVE IN THIS RAINY PLACE
There are a lot of Seattle poems, and in fact, my first published poem appeared in an anthology entitled Seattle Poems by Seattle Poets, but I’m going to shamelessly assert that this may be the quintessential Seattle poem . . . because everyone who doesn’t live here, or who cannot live here because of the gray skies, wants to know how and why would anyone want to live in such a rainy place? In reality, it’s not that rainy, but it is gray. I always wanted to write a poem entitled “Seventeen Shades of Gray,” since that’s the way many Seattle skies appear to me on those days, and if I could paint, I’d paint skies. When I read somewhere that we have 300 days of gray, I just kept thinking about those 65 perfect days, where the sun shines and the air is clear and you see mountains and water and green everywhere you look, and indeed, it feels like just about anything is possible. It is the only place I know where people say, “the mountains are out today!” as if those mountains go somewhere else on the gray days. It also seemed like the perfect metaphor for hope—the return of beauty and the sun—for those educators facing tough times, lower budgets and another rainy June. In the end, it’s a poem for all of us about places we love, and places we know are beautiful, no matter the weather, because we claim them to be our places.
LA BELLA LUNA DI RACCOLTA
This poem is a tribute to that magical, transformative journey of Italy in 2010. Here, I quote David Whyte’s telling us about “real life,” and share image after image of this rich, deep experience. We began each day with our breakfast looking out over the near-bursting grapes of the vineyards, walked up a short road to an ancient convent for our talk of the day, returned to La Loggia for our seasonal, fresh lunch: “abundant platters of tagliatelle, finocchio . . .” Then, we’d walk in the afternoons in the rose light. There would be music, poetry, wine, good conversation . . . all the things we seem to yearn for in a busy, modern life. And most importantly in this setting were the travelers, pilgrims, joined together in a magnified sensory experience as well as a rich communal experience. Notice that the “you” in the poem is ambiguous: it could be Italy itself, it could be someone special, it could be my new found friends. The last line, especially, is a tribute to my fellows and most notably to Lori di Mori, who reminded me that cooking is not only a gift you give to others, but also to yourself. My promise, after Italy, was to keep this in mind. Nourishing oneself, and those we love, is a deep calling of a fragmented world.
September is my favorite month. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s my birth month or not, but I should probably mention that. September was always the end of summer, the beginning of a new school year, which I loved both as a child and as an adult teacher. It was the time of harvest, of moving on, of loss and gain. The primary narrative of this poem is a trip to Tuscany I took in 2010 with the poet David Whyte and 20 travelers, pilgrims, from around the world. It was a magical time for me: loving Italy again, learning about my birth father’s death, reclaiming my poet self, and the backdrop of the hills outside Florence on the verge of harvest was ripe in every way.
WHAT SHE SAID
I have always been fascinated with the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus. No matter what your particular beliefs, it strikes me as particularly brave (regardless of the “truth” of the story) to imagine a woman who would say “yes” to giving birth to a Son of God. Imagine how crazy that might have seemed, to receive this request, to suffer it, to love it, then to lose it in a most traumatic way. This is the plight of many mothers, of course, and especially those who lose their children before their own deaths. Or, on a metaphorical level, sometimes we say “yes” to something that feels really big or important, and we cannot turn back from it. We set out on that path, and we must see it to the journey’s end, no matter the outcome. The lotus flower symbol creates a sort of tension in the poem because it is a major symbol of purity and enlightenment in Eastern religions: Buddhism, Hinduism and ancient Egyptians. Mary is “Blue” because typically statues of Mary include a blue gown or head scarf, and of course, she is “blue” in her loss.
CINCO DE MAYO
I worked as a waitress for about ten years, which I think everyone should do for at least a year. It’ll make you a better diner, a more generous tipper and a nicer person. At one point, there had been some muggings and attacks in the neighborhood where one of the restaurants was located, so the managers of our establishment made it mandatory that none of us would leave the restaurant alone to walk to our cars after closing. We were to wait and walk out in pairs or threes. At first, it worked, but then it got old and the last thing I wanted to do after working a long shift, standing on my feet and carrying heavy trays all night, was wait around for someone to walk me to my car in the parking garage. It’s hard to imagine this really happening to me now: a group of men in a clump just as I rounded the corner, their following me, taunting me, making comments on how I looked, and finally, literally, breaking into song. The acoustics in the parking garage created this reverberating, unreal resonance and harmony. I was stunned and overcome with an unexpected joy. As in “September,” I remember thinking, “who lives like this?”