I remember the first time poetry really moved me.
Of course, I already owned the words of Dickinson and Dunn, thinking of them as a vague echo of my experience. But.
Until this moment, I knew nothing of poetry. Not the way it sounded on a tongue or the way it silenced a crowd of college kids, nor the way it opened me and my pages to not just words, but feeling.
It was early spring, my freshman year. Linford Detweiler played a lovely, quiet, sparsely attended piano concert in the chapel, lights dimmed, stage bare. He paused between songs to read poems, tell stories, charm the crowd.
He closed with this poem, Topography by Sharon Olds.
He fingered the piano keys, tossed his music pages to the floor and read the words. And I sat there in silence for minutes afterward, thinking… Oh. That’s what it’s for.
by Sharon Olds
After we flew across the country we
got in bed, laid our bodies
delicately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep in your Texas, your Idaho
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas, your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sun rising swiftly from the left your
moon rising slowly from the left my
moon rising slowly from the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities,
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.