I don’t know my father
or his secrets.
Or the reason he drinks
thirteen drinks in one night,
or who hurt him,
or why he is so angry.
He gives me music,
like a transfusion,
from his blood to mine,
the best part of him.
He plays the piano,
does it save him,
until his liver cries out,
too scarred to keep on?
I don’t even know
what day he was born on,
who he’s afraid of,
what he loves,
what he dreams of.
We sit on the swing on the back porch.
It is night–always night with my mother.
We have matching sun dresses that summer,
thin, red see-through material with tiny white polka dots.
The red–kind of scratchy against my chest,
the skirt sticking out like a weary tutu when I walk.
Tired, leaning against my mother,
my legs dangling off the front of the swing,
she sings to herself,
her voice, low, smoky, a little off-key.
I love it because she’s giving me attention,
and I’ll take anything she gives.
She leans over to brush a strand of hair
away from my face, and keeps singing.
The screen porch is in shadow,
but light shines softly
from inside the house.
My mother is like that too.
In the twilight world of almost-asleep,
she rocks us, pushing her foot
against the floor every now and then.
Holding her song inside me
reminds me to listen–
for music in the darkness.
I am excited to announce the publication of my new book, Another Door Calls. In this—my first published poetry collection—the reader is invited to step into the stark beauty of the desert as I explore the wilderness of a far corner of southwestern New Mexico. Rivers and mountains become my teachers on this journey as I come to know the terrain more intimately. The land and water become mirrors revealing themselves to me, revealing my own inner landscape in startling silence and the language of poetry. Another Door Calls is published by Mercury HeartLink and illustrated with photographs taken by Glenn Henderson.
Award-winning poet and WNMU emeritus professor Bonnie Buckley Maldonado has praised Another Door Calls this way: “Elise Stuart has immersed herself in the high desert, integrating the harshness of spring flooding and the many months of drought to recreate them in the glorious lines of her poetry. It is because she discovers beauty within destruction, and sees wisdom within chaos, that she is able to invite the reader to seek more than meets the eye.”
like watering the strawberries and currants,
because they are up and leafing,
or carrying the wicker basket,
full of wet clothes,
down the steps and out by the trees.
One could miss the way
the fingers squeeze together
the top of the clothespin to
attach the seam of the blue shirt
to the swaying clothesline.
One could miss the moment,
when the sprinkler is moved around,
that each small strawberry plant drinks in water,
up from its root tips.
One could miss these details of care,
one could look back over the day and say only,
I washed the clothes.
I watered the garden.
One could miss all of these—
how the brown socks are
carefully laid out to dry.
I don’t want to go on about it,
but isn’t it the small things,
the little acts of love,
that keep this heartrending world
spinning on its axis?