Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On the Periphery

Don't disappear into the folds of paper
balance on the sharp edge
Start counting
The milkman who delivered glass bottles
and lent me cigarettes before I finally quit
The used book store owner who gave me
one page from a McGuffey Reader
And how about the man who sold hot chestnuts
Put it on my list of must eat foods
add pickles from a barrel
and sweet potatoes from a cart
sold by a man wearing a tartan scarf and a Greek cap
Remember Tillie who only ate Campbell's Tomato Soup
and flew pigeons from a rooftop coop
Don't forget the blisters I earned climbing
Old Rag Mountain with new boots
Remember the psalms we read at the top
"His foundation is in the holy mountains."
Remember the Knife Edge on Katahdin Mt
when I was too scared to admit my fright
Don't forget the way the banjo player
raised his head as he sang Kumbaya
as if calling forth the spirits
Forget the words said that can't be
caught and returned. Some words stay alive.
Remember the bag lady sleeping on the sidewalk
wrapped in a cocoon of blankets
Remember the man who wore a towel wrapped
around his head and talked to invisible people
Don't forget Murray who played chess
at the same table at Au Ban Pain since 1982
and took on all challengers for $2.00 a game
He wore a straw hat that said Chess Master
Don't let anyone disappear
Let them live on the periphery of memory

Linda Watskin © 2010


  1. Linda, what a nice recounting of people that you have known. I feel the same way about people who have been in my life, even in a small way. I don't want anyone (except a few - LOL) to ever disappear from my memory! I enjoyed your poem.

  2. It really is a good idea to sit down sometimes and recollect all the people who have influenced one in even a small way. I enjoyed meeting so many of the 'characters' in your life.

  3. I really, really like your poem. I actually sat back and started ruminating about all the people who just slide on through, and are gone. And why these particular ones, remain on that marginal line of the periphery. What did we see, hear, feel, that keeps them there? Why them and not others? Thank you for this still point.


  4. Substantial work, this. I think it proves that none of us are individuals, but a composite of everyone else, sometimes even those we've never actually met (the paper people).

  5. Lovely, Linda. It evokes Psalms for me, somehow. It carries the tone of deep and holy sentiment. Exquisite piece. A keeper in my favorites file.

  6. I love the way you challenge us to acknowledge (at least in our hearts) the existence of people who cross our path without exerting the gravitational pull to dislodge us from our orbits.

  7. I can actually relate to this. I always think everyone who touches our path is preordained to be there..

    tumbled thoughts in a silver tumbler

  8. This is a wonderful example of why I like list poems. Connections are both tenuous and whole, really because they come through one source - yourself. (Of course they don't have to be just this one way, but I like very much the route you chose.) "Don't let anyone disappear." I love that line. Lots of heart in your expression here. Beautifully done Linda!

  9. I've encountered people like that too. What a wonderful list poem.