Today, not long before the holiday most of us really do like best (even if it means dealing with the sister-in-law for whom the moniker “sourpuss” was coined or the cousin who really needs to get his drinking under control), we offer a poem that is a window into the kind of gemlike gratitude that can grow to generosity of spirit and even strength.
Niki Leopold is an artist as well as a poet. If you look closely you can see lovely pictures in her stanzas.
Like the Thanksgiving turkey, “Still” offers a wishbone. We all have so many unformed wishes, so many of which haunt during the upcoming season. Here we are reminded that being open to wishes granted is a granting all its own.
Now, when my father is frail,
I’m grateful to be able to open
the door for the cat with my right hand,
coffee cup steady in my left –
Grateful for an iron pill’s acrid taste –
the texture of newspaper, its ink
filling the whorls of my fingertips, letters
clearly visible, clustering into meaning.
Hardly young, we’re still supple
and I’m grateful for last night,
curving over and under each other
in the flickering light.
When I blew the votives out
one fought back, kindling from my breath
an unformed wish:
let something resist.
“Still” first appeared in Poetry in 2000. It is reprinted here with the poet’s permission.
Niki Leopold taught for many years in Maryland’s Poets-in-the-Schools Program. She has been widely published as a poet, notably in The American Scholar, Commonweal, and Poetry magazines. Her chapbook, Dark Feathers, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2004. Another, Small Pleasures, won the 2012 Blue Light Press contest. Holder of a Ph.D. in Art History as well as being a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars in Poetry, Ms. Leopold writes and illustrates children’s books. Adam’s Crayons is her new one from Galileo Press.