I Wrote You a Poem



When the ship capsizes

And the water is too cold and too much

And fills my lungs

I will try

To be buoyant enough

That you can hold onto my corpse

And survive

When the ground shakes

And yanks out the foundation

Pulling every beam askew

And the ceiling surrenders to its weight

And proves my skull’s fragility

I will try

To land sideways

So you can wedge yourself

In the width of my shoulders

And survive

When the brakes go out

On the city bus

And the wide white crosswalk lines

Offer no protection

I may let go of your hand briefly

And my slow wit

That can never invent the punchline in time

Will fail to alert my limbs

Thus discovering the last joke but

I will try

To be soft

And absorb

So you can rebound

And survive

When the blizzard

Of all the little cold, furious, buzzing

Distractions I employ to hide

From myself

Melt away

And my need to be the hero

And the center of the storm

Resolves into a man-shaped

Soggy pile of drowned, buried, flattened, unread books

No hero, not much of a poet, sometimes barely a person, not much, but

I will try

To say, “I love you

“I believe in you

“I do this for you

“For you


And I will try

To lift you

To hurt with you

To hold you

So you can smile

And survive

Bethany Lee

Bethany Lee

Tonight I got a chance to go see one of my favorite poets, Bethany Lee, sing and play her harp to accompany Kim Stafford, the Oregon poet laureate. Mr. Stafford assigned us all to write poems. “A ‘great poem,’” he said, “is something we put in an anthology and force high school students to analyze. An important poem is one you give to someone that speaks to them in their time of need.” Bethany Lee is the person who taught me, many years ago, that I am allowed to write in church as an act of worship, and though I don’t know who to worship anymore, I will always be grateful to her for teaching me to give myself permission to enter that state of worship in my preferred way. So, while Stafford read his wonderful poetry and Bethany played her harp, I jotted down some notes, and they became this poem. It’s still a draft, of course. If you have suggestions, I would love to hear them. More importantly, I hope this is discovered by someone who needs to hear they are loved. I may not be much, but I can offer that, and I hope it helps someone.