Literature 2-11-2008

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Cary Waterman

Read this week's winning poem, "Honeysuckle" by multiple What Light winner Cary Waterman, selected by e.g. bailey.



         It is a funny thing when you imagine yourself returning into the past with the
          contraband of the present.


Daughter says it’s Honeysuckle.

Mother says no – Columbine
          red orange earlobes
                    petals on green lace

Daughter says her father dead
          many years ago told her
                    it was honeysuckle

although now, thinking, she says maybe
          he had showed her Honeysuckle next
                   to Columbine and

Mother, because we forgive the dead
          almost everything, infact rewrite
                    our entire history with them

so that it softens like an old scab in salt water
          the fact of their death and softens
                   too the fact of us still alive

to see this sunlit June day
          mirror sea all around
                   Mother says perhaps it is

          even though she knows
                    quite definitely otherwise

because one memory ago
          he waded Rush Creek to pick Columbine
                    the Colorado State Flower

illegally for her after they had made love
          he on top with his feet in the creek
                    she on the mud of mossy bank

before everything else happened.


This poem plays on the conflation of memory with desire. We remember what we want to remember and in the way that we want to remember it, which may change over time and experience. Our desire to believe our personal memory infallible brings conundrum after conundrum. In Greek mythology, the daughters of Mnemosyne (Memory) are the Nine Muses who inspire all poetry and art. Often forgotten (no pun intended) is Lesmosyne, the Goddess of Forgetting who sits in the shadows waiting to be called or not called.


Cary Waterman is the author of When I Looked Back You Were Gone (Holy Cow! Press), The Salamander Migration (University of Pittsburg), First Thaw (Minnesota Writers Publishing House), and Dark Lights the Tiger’s Tail (Scopecraft Press). She co-edited the anthology, Minnesota Writes: Poetry (Milkweed Editions). Her own poems have appeared in the anthologies, A Geography of Poets, Woman Poet:The Midwest, The Logan House Anthology of 21st Century American Poetry and Poets Against the War. She has poems forthcoming in The Blue Earth Review, The Great River Review, Cutthroat, and The Minnesota Women’s Poetry Anthology. She has spent time at the MacDowell Colony and at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland. Her writing awards include Bush Foundation Fellowships, Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowships, and the Loft-McKnight Award of Distinction in Poetry. She teaches at Augsburg College and at Normandale Community College.