Thursday, August 19, 2010

In Honor of the August Heat

"Midsummer, Georgia Avenue" by Mary Jo Salter

Happiness: a high, wide porch, white columns
crowned by the crepe-paper party hats
of hibiscus; a rocking chair; iced tea; a book;
an afternoon in late July to read it,
or read the middle of it, having leisure
to mark that place and enter it tomorrow
just as you left it (knock-knock of woodpecker
keeping yesterday's time, cicada's buzz,
the turning of another page, and somewhere
a question raised and dropped, the pendulum-
swing of a wind chime). Back and forth, the rocker
and the reading eye, and isn't half

your jittery, odd joy the looking out
now and again across the road to where,
under the lush allées of long-lived trees
conferring shade and breeze on those who feel
none of it, a hundred stories stand confined,
each to their single page of stone? Not far,
the distance between you and them: a breath,
a heartbeat dropped, a word in your two-faced
book that invites you to its party only
to sadden you when it's over. And so you stay
on your teetering perch, you move and go nowhere,
gazing past the heat-struck street that's split

down the middle—not to put too fine
a point on it—by a double yellow line.


  1. I LOVE this poem! What an interesting angle. I was really not expecting that shift. I need to read more poetry. Any recommendations?

  2. What kind of poetry? Robert Frost is a good source. Tennyson and Eliot are favorites too. I get a daily dose from NPR's "Writer's Almanac" in an e-mail. "The American Scholar" journal is also an excellent source, as is "First Things", "The New Criterion", "The Sewanee Review" and "Poetry Magazine". I recommend "The Paris Review" for really excellent interviews with writers. A person really does learn more by listening, or, in this case, reading. :) Let me know what you find Bess!