We don’t write because of suffering but in spite of it. A poet who knows that as well as anyone is John Rybicki, today’s poet, who rather than succumb or go numb, takes pain and bends it into beauty again and again. His most recent book “When All the World is Old” is a transformative text, a series of incredibly beautiful elegies/lovesongs to his late wife, Julie Ann Moulds, who suffered for sixteen years with cancer. It is one of the most life-affirming books I’ve ever read. And this is one of many of my favorite poems in the book. Your local independent bookseller will have this book, or order it for you. Go shake their hand, because you need these songs in your life, trust me. There’s no better title than “Why Everything is a Poem,” for John Rybicki, because he can find a poem anywhere. His poems are great testaments to life: with all its great sparks, and breaths, and losses.
WHY EVERYTHING IS A POEM
There’s my ashen girl in the stands
with a scarf over her soft to steel-wool head.
She’s there like some buoy next to a friend
she calls sister, who has been riding
a separate current now for years.
It has been too much for too long and we know it
is time to take hold of the lightning and let it kill her,
or fill her–doctor or angel or nurse–
like some new balloon and set her glancing
across the rooftops with her dancing slippers.
She’ll sprinkle a little sand over each roof
and soft-shoe it for the sleepers.
I can’t hide the hawks. I can’t hide the crows
under my tongue and tell my lass so
kneeling beside her in the bathroom.
Can I learn to love the ashes of this world,
turn my palms to the sky like the first snow
is sifting down? Can I catch my love on my tongue
after she is gone, close my eyes while my own wife
dissolves into me? We’re on a possible farewell tour
visiting old friends when she tilts her face
my way from the stands. We make in one look
a hammock of our blood and I pool where she pools,
drink from that well of loneliness in her
I can’t quite loop my arms around.
Then we turn again to where our wife’s son
skates gladiatorial with his long hair fluttering
from beneath his hockey helmet.
That boy who once swam across my belly
reaching to pinch my bristly chin hairs.
I sing to keep the embers in the night sky alive–
those sparks God tows out of my love’s chest
each night. I sing from the crown of her stubbled head
to the arch of her foot where I’d kiss and kiss her
till she said, Dude, rub in the love like you do.
I sing her dripping just out of the bathtub,
her fingers squeaking against the steam
on the bathroom window where she’s scrawling
her last love note to my own son and me. She’s singing
the words over and over as she writes, I love my boys,
leaning hard on the o in love.
She leaves a heart and words that reappear
when we place our mouths close to the glass.
My son and I fog it with our breath
after she is gone.
Read more of John’s “When All the World is Old” in this excerpt from Lookout Books, then buy the book directly from them, or your local bookseller.