Poet's Choice by Linda Pastan

Pastan Linda.jpegThough my poems are often a reflection of my so called "real life" (the woods outside my window, my family, what I read about in the newspapers), they are usually more disguised, less specific in their details, than this poem. Maybe that's because I lead such a quiet life that I have to invent, or at least embroider.

But the snow that buried the Washington area this February was only "quiet" in the literal sense. Without heat, light, water, phone or stove, I felt like a character in "Castaway" or like a mountain climber stranded on the slopes. I think I could have done without the lights, the stove, the phone, even without my computer, but when the temperature in our house sank to 39 degrees, I became seriously unhappy.

I often write poems in my head to distract myself during hard times. Some years ago, after a car crash, while I lay waiting for the ambulance, I actually finished a poem I had been working on, determined not to die before I had it right. So "The Blizzard of 2010" was largely written in my head as I lay beneath all those blankets and coats, waiting not for an ambulance this time but for a snow plow to come and rescue me. I am still waiting for the temperature to rise enough to rescue the garden.

The Blizzard of 2010

After the power was out
for four days
the temperature indoors
continued to fall,
though so gradually
they hardly noticed at first--
like the frog in the kettle
of previously cold water
who doesn't realize
he's being boiled alive.
After the last log
had collapsed
in a pyrotechnic display
of embers fading to ash,
and the glossy leaves
of the orchids, the lemon
had started to wilt
on their faithless stems,
they lay down together
unable to move, pinned
by the weight of their blankets
and afghans and quilts,
the pile of their winter
coats. And though
they were too cold
to sleep, they dreamed
about those unassuming days
when their garden-- now
a mausoleum of snow and ice--
warmed them in ecstatic
flames of blossom.

Linda Pastan's 13th book of poems, "Traveling Light," will be published by Norton in January of 2011. She was Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1991-1995 and has been a finalist twice for the National Book Award. In 2003 she won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

By Ron Charles |  February 23, 2010; 10:04 PM ET Poet's Choice
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I'll look for your next book, Ms. Pastan. This poem reminds me of what I admire most about your work: its warmth, and its well-honed observations about the complexities of family life.

Posted by: Heron | February 27, 2010 8:08 PM

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