Literature 5-12-2008

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Greg Watson

This week's bit of winning verse is "The Leaving" by Greg Watson and was selected by What Light coordinator Lightsey Darst.


The Leaving

I will not miss this place but for
the paraffin glow of the young nurse’s face,
blonde and almond-eyed,
strange comfort of the flashlight’s
blinking on and off as she makes her
nightly rounds, seemingly without steps,
to check if you are still breathing,
kneeling at the bedside to ask,
Are you still awake? Do you need a pill?
as outside the window a dull gray
snow is falling into absence
and you cradle a thought no longer there
as if it mattered, as if anything
but her cool, soft hands offering
the drowse-inducing Eucharist
made sense anymore; as if a mind
drawing circles to mark eternity
and Xs for all the suffering
that implies could contain anything more
than the purposeful spark of fine,
subtle hips turning toward the door,
a leaving so gentle and assured
that it makes you feel nearly at home
in this world once again.


So often I am surprised by those poems which seem to have had the most effect on readers. A poem I may feel strongly about, a “success” in my eyes, may leave another feeling cool, uninspired, or ambivalent. Likewise, a piece I may view as a virtual throwaway, shared with a friend or acquaintance on a whim, can have a great emotional impact on that person. So a good reader is essential. A good reader is also a teacher, opening doors to psyche and spirit, just as the poet has attempted to do through his or her work. Certainly I have discovered layers in my own work through the eyes of others. In this way—the stream of language and ideas flowing both ways—poetry continues to inspire and surprise both writer and reader.


Greg Watson‘s work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Seattle Review, Sulphur River Literary Review, and Poetry East. His most recent poetry collections are Pale Light from a Distant Room and Things You Will Never See Again, both published by March Street Press. His latest, The Distance Between Two Hands, will be published in early 2008. He lives in Saint Paul.