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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Two Nov-Dec 2023.
If we had met 100 years ago, poems by Barbara Bald.
These poems were written as part of a collection of response poems between Anne McDonald (Ireland)
and Barbara Bald (New Hampshire, USA) during Covid and are part of the pamphlet entitled “Conversationally Yours”.
If we had met 100 years ago
I would have written often, dipped my quill
into the blackness of not-knowing, Penned you a letter
that told about the tabby cat, who, like a mugger, stalks
cellar mice, then releases her live stash in the kitchen.
I would have measured the lilac bush, so you’d know
how much it had grown since you left, mentioned
how much I missed your Irish smile and crazy curls.
Candle dripping to hold in my sentiments, wax
scenting air like church votives, I would have pressed
my seal firmly to secure them for their long journey.
What then? Pony Express—mail pouch bouncing
to hoof beats on rutted trails? Not likely across oceans.
Passenger pigeon—my note dangling from its leg,
wings avoiding aberrant winds? Cargo ship—my letter
stashed in a musty hold, wooden trunks weighing it down.
Waiting, so many empty hours. Wondering how long
it would take for you to read my letter, giggle at cat antics,
smell the tea rose hidden between its folds?
Were we alive a century later—
a Trans-Atlantic Cable would have connected us sooner,
carried our words across the bottom of the sea.
Barnacles and starfish, perhaps, sensing our urgency.
Still, the waiting—for news, for heartbeats and chuckles.
Restricting us like handcuffs, Euros and dollars would have
limited talks to Christmas, Easter, birthdays. I’d have ached
to tell you about the new feline who rolls with paws in the air,
requesting belly rubs.
Quick, leave a picture in my mind of those green fields
where neighbors discard clippings that grow into potatoes
you’ll harvest later. Tell of tadpoles often found in puddles.
Another 100 years, both of us still alive—a stretch
Small phone in each of our hands, we chatter, ramble
on opposite shores. Only limits to our sharing now—
the responsibilities to which, like strings on a puppet,
we have tethered our lives.
Place your thumb on the screen till a red circle appears,
then take a snapshot of the starlings nesting under your eaves.
Pan widely to your crops of lettuce, peas and parsley.
Let me hear the distant crows that journey beside you
on your morning walk with the new pup. I’ll help you hear
the twe-twe-twe of the male cardinal calling at dusk.
What next? Let imaginations soar
No waiting with ‘mind-travel’. No limit to what’s heard or seen.
Your words mine, mine yours? Why then might I still feel
my seal pressed into hot wax, smell its sizzle in cool air? Why then
might I still want to imagine you tearing open my long awaited letter?
We met because of a coat, well actually
because of two coats—one in Ireland,
one in the United States.
Two coats in two poems shared digitally
in a pandemic where no one dared offer warmth.
One poem told of 5,000 sons and daughters
missing each year in a small country,
disappearances unexplained, their coats left
where fathers, lost in another way, might ask,
Whose Coat Is This?
The other told of the Navy coat of a young woman,
love letters lost in a war that threatened a marriage,
whispers of box cars, bodies and ovens hidden
in its sleeves. The Witness to ticker-tape parades
and hope tucked in its pockets.
A year later, four arms still embraced in a virtual hug,
you read about the same coat in your new collection.
I listen now with different ears.
What’s Left Undone
I might have asked my mother why she loved dance,
how gold-lame high heels made her feet feel,
and why jazz seeped so easily into her heart.
Could have asked her to explain how it felt
to contort her once young body into an arch,
how dangling from a trapeze quickened the pulse.
I might have had her tell how the ocean’s waves
spoke to her, what tones they used and why
she thought they called her name.
Could have asked her to show me how to knit
an afghan, how to entwine one delicate thread
around another without dropping a stitch.
Might have wondered aloud, as we sat together,
why sipping the first steaming spoonful
of her spaghetti sauce made her smile.
© Barbara Bald
Barbara Bald is a retired teacher, educational consultant and free-lance writer. She has worked at the Frost Place in Franconia, served as outreach coordinator for NHPTV and volunteer read-ing and writing poetry with school-age children, adults. Her poems have been published in a variety of anthologies—most recently Covid Spring II published by Hobblebush Press. They have also appeared in various journals including: The Northern New England Review, Avocet, Off the Coast, Silver Birch Press and The Poets’ Touchstone. She has two full-length books: Drive-Through Window, Other Voices/Other lives and a chapbook is entitled Running on Empty.