Next Time

The Poet’s Corner – Poem by Poem

 

Next Time

When I come back I want to be a rock
– Liza

Weary of uprightness
I would slouch like the cat
I would feign like the possum
hang by my tail like the leaf
lie in the dust like a stone
even as the least of these

surrounded by mirrors I am
always there before me
tired fighting over my shoulder
I would turn like the earth
that wretched stone
would look the cold
green moon in the eye
and sleep a millennium
nuzzled by the rain
licked by the sun
– Donald Finkel

Poet: Donald Finkel  (American poet, 1921 – 2004)
Book: A Mote in Heaven’s Eye
Publisher: Atheneum 1975

The poem Next Time is close to the end of the book, and I almost missed it. Why did I choose this one? Two reasons. First, I recently read and reviewed Slave Old Man a brief novel about a Martinique slave who escapes into a Dark Wood. As much as the old slave is escaping from his master’s sugar cane plantation, he is also running into the Dark Wood to find the voices of his past, the voices that slavery had stolen. It is treacherous territory, but it is there, in the bogs, the trees and the stones where the sounds of all who have gone before continue to exist. Liza, quoted in the Next Time’s epigraph, wants to come back as a stone. It made me think of the old slave who found the voices in stones, and it reminded me of how interconnected literature is.

Second, I now live next to a river. No matter what goes on in my life, my meager manipulations to bring a balance to it are dwarfed by the Truckee that carries a narrative downstream with no concern for me. When I’m gone, I’ll skip the pearly gates, thank you. I want to be a grain of sand in the riverbed or one of the Truckee’s protruding rocks creating whitecaps when its flow is strong or invisible beneath a Sierra snowmelt in spring. Who wouldn’t be content to “sleep a millennium / nuzzled by the rain / licked by the sun?”

Other books by Donald Finkel:  Answer Back; The Wake of the Electron; What Manner of Beast; A Joyful Noise; Endurance and Going Under; Not So the Chairs; The Detachable Man; A Question of Seeing; Selected Shorter Poems; Beyond Despair, Reading Ourselves to Sleep; Adequate Earth.

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