Poet Rachel Wetzsteon died yesterday (December 30, 2009) in what may have been a suicide. Here are some of her poems.
i. Café Pertutti
Being here now be damned,
there is a motion in the passersby
that troubles comfort and brings on longing.
Midsummer evening, women drifting by
in peacock colors; what fitter thought
than Watching them pass, I am happy?
But summer is framed by ardent spring and dense autumn.
Where are they going in their emerald scarves?
ii. Skater's Waltz
This was the challenge: not to succumb,
that late gray afternoon in Port Authority,
to easy fury at the piped-in music —
such carefree, glittering sound must surround
much happier commutes than mine —
but to let the lushness pierce the grayness,
discover myself gliding in
an indoor rink with all the other skaters.
iii. Grove Street
Out on a limb, I liked the breezes
but feared the storms. Succeeding days
saw me stubbornly moving through crowds
with wide grin or vacant gaze — two sides
of the same page, for either way I was martini-dry,
incapable of bruising, noticing flecks on necks
rather than eyes, their daggers and their vistas.
And then a tree wept! The petals at my feet . . .
The park admits the wind,
the petals lift and scatter
like versions of myself I was on the verge
of becoming; and ten years on
and ten blocks down I still can't tell
whether this dispersal resembles
a fist unclenching or waving goodbye.
But the petals scatter faster,
seeking the rose, the cigarette vendor,
and at least I've got by pumping heart
some rules of conduct: refuse to choose
between turning pages and turning heads
though the stubborn dine alone. Get over
"getting over": dark clouds don't fade
but drift with ever deeper colors.
Give up on rooted happiness
(the stolid trees on fire!) and sweet reprieve
(a poor park but my own) will follow.
There is still a chance the empty gazebo
will draw crowds from the greater world.
And meanwhile, meanwhile's far from nothing:
the humming moment, the rustle of cherry trees.
Someone ought to write about (I thought
and therefore do) stage three of alchemy:
not inauspicious metal turned into
a gilded page, but that same page turned back
to basics when you step outside for air
and feel a radiance that was not there
the day before, your sidewalks lined with gold.
III.How did you feel when you entered the church?
from "Three Songs"
Left in the lurch!
What did they say when you brought back the ring?
Poor jilted thing!
Why did they laugh when they looked up its make?
It was a fake!How did you spend your time out of town?
Tracking him down.
How did he look when you raided his room?
Pale as a groom.
What were the words the coroner used?
Vilely abused.How many mourners can fill a hall?
Room for them all.
What are the songs the organist plays?
What do you drop as you head for the bier?
Never a tear.Have the embalmers earned their pay?
Pink hides the gray.
How does he look who did not survive?
What does the crowd remark upon?
That he is gone!How do you feel among these men?
What do his benefactors sense?
Where is the world's most wanted dun?
Still on the run.