I use the Women Artists Datebook, and one of my quiet January pleasures is closing up last year’s datebook and opening my new one. I transfer birthdays; I fill in travel plans; I take stock of the things I know about the year ahead. I also look over all the art and quotes and poems in the old datebook. I never love all the poems, but there’s always one that knocks my socks off. Here’s the poem I loved most in my datebook in 2008:
by Diane Swan
has a green cockatiel
and he tells the family at dinner
that cuttlebone– what the bird
sharpens its beak on–
comes from a squid.
I am startled. He knows more
than I have told him.
One lunchtime years ago
he called me an
and often I did talk
as if my children were tall glass vases
formed to contain my twigs of trivia,
long branches of perennial wisdom.
What I wanted, though I didn’t know it then,
was that clean clothes, knowledge,
bread, everything good
would come to them through me.
Now they are walking ahead
toward the theater, two young men
in gray jackets, a girl in a moss-gold
scarf, and where their shoulders touch
in heavy winter coats I see faint links
of light, the small chains they make.
And I feel my silence, old hungers
at the place of change, and hear their voices
down the flickering years ahead
telling me things I didn’t know.