I really like this poem by Sally Ridgway because it reminds me of the comfort of quirky routines, even if that reminder also highlights the bereftness of their absence. The melancholy in this poem is what makes the satisfaction of the routine valuable. As C.S. Lewis wrote about grief, “The pain now is part of the happiness then. That is the deal.”
When I saw U2 in concert last May, Bono said something that resonated with me enough for me to remember it: “There is no end to grief. That’s how we know there is no end to love.” Scoff all you like about Bono and rock concerts and the idea that there might be anything profound coming out of them, but that quote is worth hanging onto.
So there are two iterations of an important idea. Here’s the third:
Hardly Worth Mentioning
for Laura Guidry
that squirrel dead in our street
the one that sharpened its teeth on the white antlers on the balcony
the resonance of its gnawing
bone on bone on the balcony floor
friends cocked their heads
at the sound in our still house
I’d tell them it was our squirrel brushing her teeth
Do you want to see?
No, they’d say, but I did—
antlers I’d placed there, the squirrel leaping rooftops to find them
me, watching from my morning window
then the squirrel headed for the neighbor’s maple
and a car in a hurry, oblivious . . .
the sky is bone white behind the maple
my silent morning ritual, the white structure of antlers
I need something the same each morning
unconscious, unimportant—trivial sound, insignificant
time, while big things drop off that were unnatural anyway
I’d lifted the antlers from a forest floor, admiring lines,
hauled them home, a thousand miles
art for three balconies, two marriages’ worth, a quarter century
before that daily sound of determined life
my part—provision, witness
now the sunrise behind the maple is pink as if suffused
with the tiniest drop of blood
Sally Ridgway is a longtime Houstonian whose poetry has been published in anthologies including Big Land, Big Sky, Big Hair and Untameable City and in literary journals including Gulf Coast and The Texas Review and the newspaper The Texas Observer. She has taught Creative Writing through Writers in the Schools and The C.G. Jung Center and English at high schools in Galveston and Houston and at Houston Community College. She has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College.