all poems and photographs
© by Maya Stein

all poems and photographs
© by Maya Stein
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

begin here
















When the last seat is taken,
or the key has trapped in the lock,
when the rain has eviscerated your garden,
or your words have run out one by one.
When the packing is half-finished, or traffic
keeps you from your purpose,
when the bright white of your day
has paled and pixilated.
When the grocery bag rips coming up the stairs,
when the telephone bill shocks
and then flounders you,
when love has flown off course,
when your nails are ragged and wanton,
when the runway is slick and the sky sodden.
When the ache for something nameless
fans out into your bones,
when you're hungry, or lost or in need of a hand
across your eyelashes.
When it’s deadline or dilemma
or just you tripping on the stained carpet of your trouble,
begin here.

Place one leaden, obstinate foot
where you can see it.
Gather your maniacal breath,
your little windbags of lungs.
Eye only the square of sidewalk a blink away,
that quadrant of concrete mottled with the dirty
evidence of living,
and go.

When the manual for what’s broken
has been misplaced, when the view is obscured
by a restless construction site,
when your closet is an echo of castoffs.
When the bridge toll climbs and the road
down the mountain is pummeled with snow,
when your face bears little resemblance
to the person you remember,
when the field is populated with abler bodies,
when poems have been written by nimbler souls,
when no amount of squinting
delivers oasis, begin here.

Guide your defeated arms
into a small fit of swinging.
Coerce your hips into the barest
shimmy. Locate the pocket of a single,
deserted minute, its hum of insignificance,
and go.

When cheer cannot cheer you,
when crumbs cannot feed you,
when the storage space in the garage
topples from the weight.
When beauty eludes you,
when the weatherman confirms your fear,
when the doctor bears his wild news.
When you return to the bad habit,
when the current continues its brutal tackle,
when mess is your middle name,
begin here.

Climb onto your weary haunches. Lift your belly
from its mattress cave. Initiate the wholly
unremarkable act of breathing, and go.

When you have had enough.
When you have had too much.
When your fortress has not kept away the enemy,
and the walls are an abscess of rubble.
Do not fling yourself from the gangplank.
Do not hasten your disappearance
with your own cruelty.
Do not mask your ferocity with a collage of good manners.

The death’s door of your failure
is still a door.
Wrap your shaking fist around the handle.
Hear the cricket click of the latch.
And begin.

12 comments:

shep. said...

thank you.

Marion said...

Awesome poem, just perfect for this time of year. Blessings!!

Hashi said...

oh my god. SO powerful. thank you.

Diana Maus said...

Wow. I found this tonight in my RSS. The title drew me in. This is an amazing poem. You are so gifted with words. I think I will read this every day of 2011, every morning. I needed something. Thank you.

Christina said...

Yes, yes, yes.

Katrina said...

I love this. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Needed this right now. Thank you. I will try to remember to move.

Jan said...

Spot on. This poem takes my breath away. Thank you--I'm going to post it where I see it every day.

vee said...

wow! you really have a way with words. inspiring...

Anonymous said...

powerful, and much needed.

Judi said...

God, this is beautiful, heart-wrenching, inspiring! Your poetry never fails to touch a special place in the reader's heart. Thank You.

Alexis Zinkerman said...

you write like Mary Oliver here...