by Annie Finch
A sunny afternoon; think of Vermeer.
Here is the apple, here the rounding side
of the blue pitcher. On the scrubbed wood just here,
she puts the pitcher down, so that the slide
of drops against its lip catches what light
there is for pitchers here this afternoon.
She does not really see the drops, or quite
attend the blue. A common thing. But soon
the tide will turn, and salty smells will rise
to circle in the street, and to her ears
will come the voices. Then doorways to her eyes,
then other days than this—afternoons, years.
She will stop to hold this moment near,
and drop the pitcher, and betray Vermeer.
A perk of writing this blog is the correspondence of strangers who graciously email me because of something that moved them on Fourteenlines. I sincerely appreciate the feedback, the thoughtful criticism, encouragement and suggestions for poems readers would like to see included in the blog. Recently, Annie Finch, a writer, poet, speaker, entertainer, teacher, translator and self proclaimed poetry witch, sent me several great suggestions, and in particular several of her own sonnets. I highly recommend you check out her website, her work and her learning opportunities at the link below. Finch offers several on-line writing classes that are easy to sign up for and affordable. A good way to fight off the dull times during COVID!
I have been debating whether to hold the first annual Fourteenlines sonnet contest in 2021. I am leaning in the direction of kicking the new contest off in May and having deadlines early September with winners announced in December. Three cash prizes for best rhymed or unrhymed sonnets. My idea is to provide an additional outlet, albeit modest in scope, for writers of sonnets around the world to submit a poem.
I am curious, those of you that are frequent readers of Fourteenlines, what you think of this idea of a sonnet contest? Would you submit an entry? Would you help network to encourage others on your blog to submit an entry? What level of cash incentive do you think will motivate people as prizes? Would any of you be willing to be part of a panel to determine the winners? If any of these questions resonate, please contact me through email@example.com and let me know your feedback?
I really enjoyed Encounter by Finch. I have fond memories of my many years of commuting by bus to the University of Minnesota and then to downtown to my restaurant job and then home late at night, most days 3 separate segments and bus changes per segment. When you commute by city bus, for an extended period of years, you learn the denizens of your route; who has a similar schedule as your own, who are the interlopers who you see infrequently but repeatedly because they are running late or headed in early, who are morning people, who are night people, who will look you in the eye, who won’t, who is suffering emotionally, who is having a blissful day. On a crowded bus where you are packed shoulder to shoulder, with strangers, you know about peoples hygiene, food preferences, all kinds of personal information is exchanged silently. There are days commuting your closest contact of the entire day in terms of physical touch is with a total stranger who brushed up against your leg, or the kindly older person who put their hand on your shoulder to sit down on the cold hard plastic seat and smiled at you. I have witnessed random acts of kindness, generosity, indifference and cruelty, between total strangers on buses, sometimes over the course of only 12 city blocks. I have watched lovers make out, have fights, talk and laugh and sit stoically. A city bus is a living breathing thing.
I think everyone should have the experience of riding the bus for a while, to learn the humbleness of having to explain to your boss why you are 30 minutes late because the bus didn’t show, to learn patience by having to wait in the rain or snow or cold or heat, to learn the art of communication, verbal and non-verbal that happens with strangers on public transportation, realizing we’re all on a journey together in this city, going somewhere at its own pace with someone else in control and you must just accept it.
by Annie Finch
Then, in the bus where strange eyes are believed to burn
down into separate depths, ours mingled, lured
out of the crowd like wings–and as fast, as blurred.
We brushed past the others and rose. We had flight to learn,
single as wings, till we saw we could merge with a turn,
arching our gazing together. We formed one bird,
focused, attentive. Flying in silence, we heard
the air past our feathers, the wind through our feet, and the churn
of wheels in the dark. Now we have settled. We move
calmly, two balanced creatures. Opened child,
woman or man, companion with whom I’ve flown
through this remembering, lost, incarnate love,
turning away, we will land, growing more wild
with solitude, more alone, than we could have known.
Both included in Spells: New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan, 2013).