Literature 12-22-2008

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Diana Lundell

"The Right Answer" by Diana Lundell was selected to be this week's What Light-winning poem by Duluth Poet-Laureate Jim Johnson.

What Light winner, Diana Lundell
What Light anthology

The Right Answer

Because she doesn’t want to be a burden
she never volunteers information;
questions have to be asked at the right time.
All day she’s been small and quiet
in the same spot on the couch.
When the meal is ready,
she is walked to the dining room table
where someone dishes her a plate,
cuts up her food. We all know
this is her last Christmas.
Later the right question
is asked, and she says yes.
Since I don’t have the extra seat
with handles, I have to help her
out of her pants, long underwear,
and onto the toilet.
Her body wants more
than it can give—
a dribble, a fractional plop.
She can manage the front, if I
do the back.
Yet it’s not so easy to pull her up
and wipe at the same time:
I learn to get under,
become the center of gravity,
her safe place to fall.


For me, a poem is good when I feel it in my gut. I’m most attracted to honesty, unexpected truisms, tantalizing new words, pure imagery and metaphor shaped into startling beauty. A clever title always sucks me in or an opening line that is, at once, inviting and a bit bizarre. As a poet, I never define who I am, because I’m ever in the process of reinventing myself. Simply speaking, I write what most disturbs me.
I am a voracious reader of poetry, mostly free-verse written in the last seventy-five years. Recent poets I’ve enjoyed: Mark Turcotte, Deborah Keenan, Ashley Capps, Richard Blanco, Li-Young Lee, John Engman and Elizabeth Bishop. Old standby favorites I never tire of: James Wright, Sylvia Plath and Edna St. Vincent Millay.


Diana Lundell is the author of Awaking Indigo, a collection of poetry from Puddinghouse Press. Her poetry has won several contests and has been publicly performed by professional actors. Over the years, her work has also appeared in various publications, most recently Elegant Thorn Review, Whistling Shade, Eagan Magazine, Stonewritings and Metro Magazine. She has also appeared on “Write On Radio” and has given several interviews with magazines and publications on writing. You can find her at or on her deck gazing into the wonder of a twilight sky, and imagining—always imagining.