Thursday, June 14, 2012

Poem 3 – Limen

Natasha Trethewey has just been named the 19th U.S. poet laureate, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to introduce her to you. I’m not terribly familiar with her work, but I have loved “Limen” for years now.

Following is a link to an article regarding Ms. Trethewey’s assignment.

Natasha Trethewey

All day I’ve listened to the industry
of a single woodpecker, worrying the catalpa tree
just outside my window. Hard at his task,

his body is a hinge, a door knocker
to the cluttered house of memory in which
I can almost see my mother’s face.

She is there, again, beyond the tree,
its slender pods and heart-shaped leaves,
hanging wet sheets on the line—each one

a thin white screen between us. So insistent
is this woodpecker, I’m sure he must be
looking for something else—not simply

the beetles and grubs inside, but some other gift
the tree might hold. All day he’s been at work,
tireless, making the green hearts flutter.

from The Best American Poetry 2000
Rita Dove, Editor / David Lehman, Series Editor

What I love about this poem:
I love its simplicity, first off.  I love the image of the woodpecker being a hinge, a door knocker, on the tree, feet planted, his body working back and forth. I love the “heart-shaped leaves” and the last line, “making the green hearts flutter.” He’s working like a little maniac, and the whole tree is shaking. Woodpeckers are so tenacious, so unconcerned about that others think of their noise (their “industry”), so detached. This makes him the perfect metaphor for the mother in the poem hanging wet sheets between her and her child.

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