Literature 4-21-2008

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Molly Spencer

Read "For Daphne, Anne Sexton, and Me" by Molly Spencer, this week's What Light winner (selected by poet Margaret Hasse).

Molly Spencer

For Daphne, Anne Sexton, and Me, Where We Live In This Honorable House of the Laurel Tree

Somebody already wrote this poem,
sifting words like wind through laurel leaves.
The woman in her bark-bound home

who only wished to live alone
across the river bank, even she believed
that somebody already wrote this poem.

Each passing year, another layered ring had grown
around her, wreathing her desire to live free.
The woman in her bark-bound home

chased, instead, what could be found inside: a wound
the leaden arrow made to bleed and bleed and bleed.
Somebody already wrote this poem,

she said. But grew on, though her wish became a stone.
And O her hands were green and green,
the woman in her bark-bound home.

The one for whom the golden arrow’s thrown
will never know quite what it means to flee.
Somebody already wrote this poem:
The woman, in her bark-bound home.


I love poetry for its beauty, brevity, and precision. Some of my favorite poems are by the psalmists of the Hebrew Bible, Sappho, Li Po, W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, and Mary Oliver. This poem was inspired by the ancient Greek story of Daphne and Apollo, and by an Anne Sexton poem which references the same story.* For me, this poem explores the nearly universal experience of getting what one wants, but not quite, and the idea of an infinite variety of possible lives, only one of which is actually lived.

*The poem is “Where I Live In This Honorable House of the Laurel Tree” from To Bedlam and Part Way Back, Houghton Mifflin, 1960.


Molly Spencer, poet and mother, grew up amidst the beaches, dunes, hills, orchards, woods, and streams of west Michigan. She now lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, with her husband and three children.

This week’s poetry and wine pairing: Alexander Vineyards’ New Gewurz 2006

Alexander Vineyards’ New Gewurz 2006 holds a place of distinction: it is among the first wines in California from the new vintage, bottled and released within 6 weeks of harvest, usually around the first week of November. Produced in an off-dry style, the New Gewurz is reminiscent of the great wines of France’s Alsace region. Most of the fruit for the New Gewurz comes from cooler climate vineyards in Mendocino. To capture and enhance the lively, spicy characteristics of this varietal, the chilled juice is cold-fermented and then the wine is immediately bottled. This lively wine is a great spring and summer sipper. It’s also a perfect partner for spice ethnic cuisine like Thai or Mexican.