I look past tightly packed stacks
through plate glass.
Branch loads of leaves have escaped
from their trunks.
They have stories to tell.
The breeze knows this,
leafs through in search
of the one it wants to hear.
I don’t like to force a poem into consciousness or onto the page. Poems should come when they’re ready. But that’s exactly what I did a number of years ago on the last day of a summer writers’ conference at a college in northern California. I’d led my sessions and critiqued my group’s work but hadn’t written anything myself. I’d hoped to leave with something—even a rough draft that might languish in my mulch file. I took myself and my yellow legal pad to the campus library, determined to sit there until something emerged then sat for a couple of hours scribbling mindlessly until I lost focus and my gaze drifted down the rows of stacks through the full length windows to a dense grove of trees just outside, their branches swaying in a light wind. Books. Trees. Breeze. After a time, a phrase emerged, then a metaphor, then a small poem.
It satisfied me. Even now, when I read it again and close its 42-word file unedited, I remember the year, place and occasion. Should I do more of this “forced” writing, maybe follow William Stafford’s poem-a-day practice? Truth is, I don’t have that kind of ambition. But I have patience. I enjoy being a vessel, ready to receive whatever inspiration my muse provides.