Other Bells We Would Ring: A Poem for Parents
As I write this the rain is bucketing down out of a sky so gray it feels as if even the weather is conspiring to press home the weight of darkness that this month has ushered in.
So much grief is around us, and the idea of bringing forth light seems a fool’s task. Yet the wheel is turning, and I don’t know about you, but as we move toward ringing in the New Year, everything feels tenuous and precious. I want badly to remember my best, compassionate self, to move toward kindness, and yes, real change.
With this in mind, I decided that this month’s poem should be for parents. The poem I chose does look squarely into the face of darkness, but it also calls forth possibility, a different “bell.”
When you read the poem, I hope you’ll feel free to replace the word “Father” with anything right for you. I think the poem invites us to do that, to imagine whatever we think of when we call on the unknown. For Patchen, writing on the eve of World War II, it’s the idea of “Father,” for us it can be whatever rings true.
At the New Year
By Kenneth Patchen
In the shape of this night, in the still fall
of snow, Father
In all that is cold and tiny, these little birds
In everything that moves tonight, the trolleys
and the lovers, Father
In the great hush of country, in the ugly noise
of our cities
In this deep throw of stars, in those trenches
where the dead are, Father
In all the wide land waiting, and in the liners
out on the black water
In all that has been said bravely, in all that is
mean anywhere in the world, Father
In all that is good and lovely, in every house
where sham and hatred are
In the name of those who wait, in the sound
of angry voices, Father
Before the bells ring, before this little point in time
has rushed us on
Before this clean moment has gone, before this night
turns to face tomorrow, Father
There is this high singing in the air
Forever this sorrowful human face in eternity’s window
And there are other bells that we would ring, Father
Other bells that we would ring.
From Collected Poems, 1939.
I am imagining what that would sound like right now, all of us bringing forth a different kind of music. I wish peace to you and yours in 2013.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy’s the mother of two children who seem to enjoy poetry, for which she’s extremely grateful. Her first book, How I Got Lost So Close To Home, was published by Alice James Books and poems have appeared in a variety of anthologies and journals. She’s a former Associate at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center at Mt. Holyoke College, where she looked at the impact of motherhood on the work of women poets. In addition to her life as a poet, Dryansky works for a land trust, teaches in at Hampshire College, leads workshops in the community and writes about what it’s like to navigate the territory of mother/poet/worker at her blog, Pokey Mama. Her second book, Grass Whistle, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2013.
[Photo credit: (ccl) David Boocock]