Thirty-Eight

by Sue Goyette

copyright ©Text copyright © Sue Goyette, 2013

Souls became the perfect distraction. We had to keep
their gowns clean. We had to buff their moods.

But some of us were wounded in a way that made our days
need crutches. We were invalids in the pale hospital hours

of our kitchens. No one had warned us that our children
would leave and we were bereft, holding up the bedclothes

of their childhood and breathing deep the pink lambs
of their voice. We had no choice but to seal the poets’ trap

of sugared words and meet at the ocean. Bravely, we tried
reciting them without sounding desperate. That our souls

were grazing on the hill behind us no longer mattered.
We wanted to lure our wandering children home.

The words we used had the thin syrup of our loneliness
in their veins. In this way, we learned that words also have souls,

and when the souls of our words escaped, there was a glitter
frosting the ocean, and briefly, we had managed to sugar its tide.

Notes on the Poem

While Sue Goyette's delightfully surreal Ocean challenges us, so does it also comfort us, as we've observed. We've been reminded again what a great source of solace poetry can be, so let's consider another selection from Ocean with that in mind. Recent world events (or events that have infected and do affect the world) have many turning or returning to the consoling effects of poetry, as articles such as these have remarked: A poem opening with: "Souls became the perfect distraction." seems very inviting if you're not yearning for a more specific call to arms. Distraction might be construed as a way of avoiding what is troubling us or causing us to be enervated, but as this wise review of the collection points out:
"Goyette puts us [in] a roasting pan. A magical roasting pan in which all life — the personal, the civic, and the universal — is thrown in to heat and gel and later to cool, to be cut up and eaten, savoured."
So indeed, things heat up with activity as we get busy dealing with those distracting souls: "We had to keep their gowns clean. We had to buff their moods." and then "We had no choice but to seal the poets' trap of sugared words and meet at the ocean." While we were being distracted - albeit intriguingly - Goyette was quietly but firmly reconciling words and souls, acknowledging their power, even acknowledging where their power might or might not help, showing that while we might not be able to control the tide (of those world events, of life itself), we can manage to ameliorate it.

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