You Asked Me to Write You a Poem

You asked me to write you a poem,
one to remember me by, someday:
Please don’t type it. Write it out.
It’s more personal that way.

Do you believe my hand is steady,
my scribbles easy to read?
Do you think the paper of my life is clean
and the ink will never fade?
There’s no perfect in me or what I make;
only struggle, and play, and a jot of grace.

I tell my pen now: Move straight, stroke slow.
Pay attention to what comes before it goes.
Set down the text in the plainest speech you know.
Laugh aloud at your clunkers and mistakes.
Don’t worry—you get as many tries as it takes.
Leave enough space to find yourself
between the letters, the words, the lines.
Nap between stanzas, or have a glass of wine.
Abandon this desk to walk in the world.
Absorb the rhythms and rhymes that swirl.
When you’re back inside and begin to write more,
nothing will be as it was before.

These shaky lines are my right hand’s best.
May they matter to you, though we’ve never met.
I do what I do for the sake of love—
every poem, too soon, is over and done.


Play notes: This poem surprised me. I almost always write in free verse. But when the fairly regular meter and rhyme began to appear in my first draft, I relaxed into what the poem wanted to be, without binding myself to a particular structure or rhyme scheme.


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