Given a second chance, I’d choose the blue: four poems by Helen Wickes

Cheerful Defense of the Realm

Once I used to be and desperately wanted,
but in the beginning I wondered,
though once upon a time I secretly knew.
At first I declared; then I believed.
After a while I noticed, but not enough.
In the end I still wanted. In the middle
I was lost, very lost. In the meantime
I complained. As a general rule I felt.
When it was over, I gently explained
how I had guessed according to the stars.
Apropos of nothing I apologize.
With hindsight I throw up my hands in praise.
Under the circumstances, I’ll take another.
Given a second chance, I’d choose the blue.


Single Thread

When I was a weaver, I chose
a red silk thread to get me to the heart
of my creation and then back out,
across the loom, to whatever life was waiting.

And when you found the little red pathway,
buried between warp and woof, you were sure
you’d found a flaw. Please remember what happens

when there’s no exit. Years of breathing
wool dust, reeking of lanolin, staring into coils
of green yarn and blue—you go dumb.

You’ve heard the story a thousand times—
that trapped fox, whining and snuffling
then biting her paw
through the bone, and running off into the night.

The mind wants this: a door in the wall,
an open field, a narrow path
through the woods, an open field


What You Hope For

The day trying its best to heat up,
the snow breathing cool off the mountains
in July. As the amber iris fades,
the golden mule ears open–it’s a yellow translation.

In the forest there are thrown-out tires,
a splayed-open fridge, old windows.
The moss on the trees is too bright,
a hot, green tangle. It’s hard to get away,
but from what, toward what?

A mashed place
in the rye grass where the deer sleep.
And then I find a tiny bird’s nest imprinted inside
by underbelly, heartbeat, but the outer twigs
roughed up by onslaught.

The loud camper passes, loaded down
with bikes and rowboat, dragging a jeep.
People together–an act of courage,
how they do this.

The beauty bounces off the surface,
the morning strokes the mist from the lake.
The day’s thin-skinned but not for long.

On the lake one canoe swerves,
then lurches. How worrisome
to watch the two people, cosseted
in their bosomy life jackets, jerkily stand up

and exchange words, exchange paddles.
Their bouncing boat soon rights itself. Ah well,
crying is not an option.

You can get love wrong again
and become an expert of the aftermath.

The climbing body thinks: left foot,
mariposa lily, right foot, three stones
;
three stones means a trail,
another person’s been here before us.

This high up there’s heat, granite,
and silence. A steady drizzle of pebbles
skittering down the slope.


Wait for Me

Thin light on the path ahead,
wavering, can’t see it,
now here again, your footsteps,
the starlight faint, fireflies’ light
muffled in the humid night air.
Can’t make out that sound
bird maybe animal, no matter,
a living being, a comfort.
You’ve gone on ahead,
following you is often boring,
exhausting, occasionally
thrilling—there’s a moment’s
respite to hear the creek’s
thin trickle, to smell the watercress
crushed underfoot—so bright,
so bitter. Wait for me, I’ll catch up
with you, any day now.

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Given a second chance, I’d choose the blue: four poems by Helen Wickes

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