Everyone needs a Poem

I’ve been adopted by a poem. By a line in a poem. And by a small entry on the flyleaf of the book where my poem lives.

Tuesday last, I’m lying on a grassy bank in Crescent park, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, rereading Wendy Morton’s Shadowcatcher. I pause at the flyleaf and find my direction, my dedication.

All books have flyleaves. Andrea told me that the flyleaf is one of the greatest of inventions. It hadn’t occurred to me but she’s right. Flyleaves give you a place to pause, to gather yourself for just a moment. They give you time to let your eyes adjust to the light, to sip wine before the meal. Otherwise a book begins too abruptly leaving you no personal space.

But the flyleaf is also the perfect place for a short hand written note, a thought, a personal dedication. I have this in Shadowcatcher. It says, to Stephen, "who waltzes in and out of what matters."

That afternoon, when I read my poem, and dreamt again of waltzing in and out of what matters, the fountain in the crescent watercourse turned bright blue.

You say I’m dreaming. And I say, "Of course, but it also happened just as I say."

Blue fountain

And while the blue was spouting bright a swan swam by, and a couple walked by, arms linked, looking into the baby carriage they were pushing, and some kids were throwing bits of bread on the water."

Everyone needs a poem." For Wendy Morton, who commits random acts of poetry, this is close to a mantra.

I think, as well, everyone needs to see their name applied to the front of a book. A dedication, a declaration that you are here, and it matters.

Everyone needs a poem. Here’s mine:

Conversation above the Lake
"Will you sit here?" you ask me.
This is where you spend your afternoons,
watching the lake, the ospreys,
the double-crested cormorants,
in this room of silence and echo.
On the mantle, a ceramic dancer
bends in silhouette.
Your daughter, the dancer,
laughs in another room.
The voice of her sister,
who dreams of horses,
drifts in the air.
Our words move in time
to their voices,
as we waltz in and out of what matters:
what breaks the heart,
what heals it.

Everyone needs a poem.

And so when I came to the last poem in "Shadowcatcher," I left the grassy bank and waltzed down to a park bench, deciding to read it to the first person who happened by. It was a lady, white hair, seventy-five years old I guess.


I get her attention by asking her if anyone has ever read her a poem. She said, "Not once, never." I ask her if I could read her a poem. She smiles slow, and says, "Sure, yes, why not."

I read her "The Path." It’s a poem of ordinary memories of the land, of home, of old countries, of connections.

As I read I’m aware of my own odd excitement. When I finish I look up; she’s been smiling. I tell her I’ve just committed a random act of poetry. She smiles broadly and says, "Thank you," and continues on down the path.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,


  1. You’re so poetic, and so calm and so…….centered. Good on you for shining on other human beings the way you do.

    I’m hoping we all have the power to move in and out of what matters, even if we’re not poetic, or calm or centered, even if we’re scattered and rushed (it’s a different kind of poetry, and maybe not a waltzing in and out so much, as a stumbling in and out of what matters?)….I had a conversation last week that I would never have invited, never in a million years, and it didn’t feel like a waltzing into what matters, more like a falling into, or even being shoved, hard, into what matters, but I’m hoping it all matters, in the end.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *