My friend Lisa the Poet (referred to on this blog frequently as simply LP) had this to say about poets: “As far as those who can sustain many great poems over many years, the list for me is short: Berryman, Gluck, McMichael, Forche.” Yeah, she’s tough, so I take her recommendations very seriously. My daily poetry fix (done with the ritual of taking vitamin supplements) is now focused on digging deeper into the work of each of those four poets.

This morning I found the following poem by Forche which reminded me immediately of one of my long time favorites, Initiation II by Nina Bogin. It is the poem that brings back full force my first year of living in France on my own oh so long ago. These two poems make a nice pairing on this Thursday morning, the first morning in months when I haven’t awakened with the sense of a creative deadline looming. Yes, the paintings for my upcoming show have been selected and the hanging blocked out wall by wall with gallery director James Lyman. Done and done. So now I can fall into that inner sigh of relief at having completed this very protracted and arduous arc of labor. Initiation means something quite specific to me this morning.

Poem For Maya

Dipping our bread in oil tins
we talked of morning peeling
open our rooms to a moment
of almonds, olives and wind
when we did not yet know what we were.
The days in Mallorca were alike:
footprints down goat-paths
from the beds we had left,
at night the stars locked to darkness.
At that time we were learning
to dance, take our clothes
in our fingers and open
ourselves to their hands.
The veranera was with us.
For a month the almond trees bloomed,
their droppings the delicate silks
we removed when each time a touch
took us closer to the window where
we whispered yes, there on the intricate
balconies of breath, overlooking
the rest of our lives.

–Carolyn Forche

Initiation II

At the crossroads, hens scratched circles
into the white dust. There was a shop
where I bought coffee and eggs, coarse-grained
chocolate almost too sweet to eat.
When I walked up the road, the string sack
heavy on my arm, I thought
that my legs could take me anywhere,
into any country, any life.
The air, dazzling as sand, grew dense
with light: bougainvillea spilled
over the salmon walls, the road
veered into the ravine. The world
could be those colors, the mangoes,
the melons, the avocado evenings
releasing their circles of moon.
I climbed the pink stairs, entered
the house as calm and ephemeral
as my own certainty:
this is my house, my key,
my hand with its new lines.
I am as old as I will ever be.

–Nina Bogin