Tessa, This Thing Called Existence

She tried lipstick–orangey peach–and tied on
a polka dotted scarf. Oh, she’s not ignorant,
or maybe she is, it depends. She sits in
the room, copying passages from the Bible.
It’s her way into language. There’s her man,
an old man, a preacher man. Silvery but kind.

She carried his child. He had baptized her,
wetting her forehead with river water.
She thinks all the time, the past burning
into ash, but it’s there. There’re echoes
everywhere. Now she knows about what the
Bible says; it keeps her warm and safe.

She walked past the cornfield, late, worn
and dry, stalks bent. Down to the river
to watch the white birds–hundreds of them.
Pelicans. She thought about what it be like,
having this child. She felt it stirring, inside
her yellow coat, open, warmed by the sun.

Prompt: As someone who reads fiction, I often borrow stories. This one’s based on the novel by Marilynne Robinson, Lila. It’s actually possible to take a slice out of a book and then weave the story into a poem. Try it. And of course, in doing so, you’re taking on another self. The book deals with “life without comfort, without love, and that is the real life”, in the words of a reviewer from The New Yorker. It’s a slow book, for sure, and there isn’t much romance in it. Duh. Just tenderness. Well, your prompt would be to take on another self from a book.


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