When Janis said, “It’s the elephant in the room.” and we laughed.
And over the next hour, we whittled things down.
One line after another, chiseled, then gone.
We were looking for the spine.
We were returning to the bones.
We were digging for gold, or whatever it is
that’s lives beyond it, deeper in, muddied and rich.
There was a screen between us, and at least 3,000 miles,
but we were face to face, and behind Janis
I saw Janis’s fridge and her bright kitchen,
and the hallway that leads to the master bedroom
or the office, I don’t know which,
and her sadness, I saw that, too.
And behind me, Janis saw
my wood-paneled guestroom, and she saw
the top of my turquoise sweater and my cream-colored
zip-up vest and my tired eyes and my sadness. Janis saw that, too.
We wrestled over the word “sculpted” and “upheaval” and “singular”
but there was no arguing the three questions Janis posed
In the third stanza, and the feel of the word “ocean”
when you read it out loud and ditto for “center”
and the phrase “pink plastic wallet.”
I kept thinking about the look in Janis’s mother’s eyes –
one of the lines of the poem – and that drawer in the
nightstand where she kept the wallet and the repetition of two words –
I am, I am, I am – which even if we never say it,
is the start of something.
And sometimes it is an elephant in the room
or bones, or gold, or sadness on one day,
and a poem on another.