Poetry One Day Early: Two Moments with Strangers

h1 July 30th, 2009 by jules

There’s this friend of mine. We share books and music. I do that with a lot of friends, but he and I will actually swap a CD or a poetry anthology and keep it for long periods of time, then returning it with many new thoughts to share. For the longest time, we swapped this nearly perfect CD (Holy Celtic Folk Music! It’s over twenty years old now. Does it get any better than “Fisherman’s Blues”? No, my friends, it just doesn’t.) And he once returned my copy of Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit with his own pencilled notes in the margins. I suppose some people might chafe at such boldness, but I loved it. It made the book even more special, and the next time I read it, I read it in all new ways.

I’ve had his copy of Charlotte Matthews’ poetry anthology Green Stars for a length of time now that is perhaps verging on inexcusable. But today, for Poetry Thursday-Slash-Friday (why not post one day early?), I have one of her poems to share. If you like it, you can thank me and my patient, forgiving friend, Shannon.

Charlotte, a writing instructor at The University of Virginia, won the Fellowship of Southern Writers’ 2007 New Writing Award for Poetry for Green Stars, released in 2005 by Iris Press in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. This poem, “Two Moments with Strangers,” which I once briefly mentioned before at 7-Imp, was originally published in Potomac Review — but is also included in the anthology Shannon probably wishes I’d give back already. This is a haunting story poem, one of my favorites of Matthews’.

There are so many more from Green Stars that I wish I could share, particularly “Last Dream Before Waking” and “How My Mother Waited” and “Lucy” and…and…and…I could go on. Maybe you can find a copy of this collection at your local library, if you’re so inclined, and let me know what you think.

As always, copyright restrictions preclude me from posting the poem in its entirety, but here’s how it begins:

The day I walk all ten miles
of the Ridge Road,
I stop to ask for water from a man
whose tended garden blooms
against the chipped metal of his trailer
where his wife shifts about in the heat
praying that a storm will rise
over the near mountains.
The water is sweet and I thank him.
Red poplin curtains wave back
and forth in a fan’s path.
Soon, the man promises, soon
your baby will be born
and it will be a girl
as you have wished so hard for

You can read the last part here. Go ahead. Click. You know you don’t want to miss the poem’s conclusion and meeting the second stranger.

Tomorrow’s Poetry Friday dance party will be hosted by the very smart Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children.

P.S. Thanks, Shannon. This is for you. Happy belated birthday:

Warning: Watching may make one woozy. But listening is highly recommended.

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11 comments to “Poetry One Day Early: Two Moments with Strangers”

  1. First: I had a friend who listened to the Waterboys in college. I heard a song called “The Whole of the Moon,” and it always reminds me of him. I actually thought I’d made that group up, it’s one of those memories that exists on the edge of conscious thought.

    Two: how lovely that someone writes in your writing books. That’s a true bookbud, one whom you will let mark your pages.

    Three: what a lovely piece of poetry, a moment with strangers, reminding us that in fact, they are truly friends we have not yet …identified, if not met.


  2. What a lovely poem, warm and haunting at the same time. Another Vols-Wahoo connection … poetic unto itself!


  3. I loved that poem so much. Just checked, and the book is not in our library’s system, but I’m going to take the plunge and order it. Then maybe I can find someone to lend it to one day who will send it back with penciled-in notes. Thank you!


  4. Love the poem. I’ve always thought: there are no chance encounters. Each small moment happens for a reason. Will Shannon get her book back?


  5. Wow. Just, WOW. That poem completely took my breath away.

    And you know how I love The Waterboys. Thanks, J.


  6. Tanita, “The Whole of the Moon” is also a wonderful song.

    Terry, yes! Yay to that East TN connection.

    Jeannine, let me know what you think.

    Jama, yes, I need to send Shannon his book back one day soon. I don’t have pencilled notes for him, but I enjoyed reading his.

    Eisha, beautiful, huh?


  7. This is a wonderful post – for the poem, for the peek at your friendship, and for the continuation of my musical education here. (Like, the Waterboys? Say what?! I think I may have learned as much about music from 7-Imp as I have about illustrators.) Thanks, Jules!


  8. Wow. I haven’t thought about the Waterboys for a long time, but used to listen to all of their music in the 80′s. And the poem? Let’s just say that I have become too darn emotional for my own good lately. Beautiful.


  9. John, I bet you’d love The Waterboys. I’ll put ‘em on your mix.

    Jill, a). I like your cyber heart-on-your-sleeve, and b). I’m with ya. I cried, too.


  10. Thank you. I enjoyed Two Moments with Strangers and now want to read more of Charlotte Matthews’ work. Unfortunately, Green Stars is not part of our San Francisco library collection. I’ll have to search for a copy to keep, and if I’m lucky, a friend will pencil notes inside one day.


  11. Good luck finding it, Denise. I’d like to read all her other stuff I’ve missed, too.


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