From The 6th Floor
By Joyce Sutphen
I’m sitting in the air, where there once was
nothing; now I’m looking down on people
walking on a plaza which was never
there. I could be sitting on a steeple
(just as likely) but I’m not; I’m walking
through the wind—where it goes, I do not know.
Once I saw clear through these walls; shocking
now to think of it, how the world is so
capricious that it changes air to brick
and cloud to window sill. Everything
gives way to progress—such a rhetoric
of loss, such a way to stop us singing.
If they build it, we will climb into the air
and forget that blue was everywhere.
Maybe I like Joyce Sutphen’s poetry so much, because we have so much in common. Sutphen is Minnesota’s second Poet Laureate, having been appointed by outgoing Governor Mark Dayton in 2011. She is a long time resident of St. Peter, just upstream and down the road a little in the Minnesota River valley from Mankato, where I lived for 13 years.
Sutphen’s work expresses a voice I recognize, a Midwestern, Minnesotan love of place, love of people, love of life. It is a less harried voice and maybe a slightly softer voice, than poets that come from harsher places and crueller times. Sutphen writes in many styles and sonnets make up only a small portion of her work. I enjoy that she uses the structure of sonnets as part of her love affair with life, but truth be told, I have a short attention span for long poems. I like a poet that can get something conveyed in twenty lines or less, and even better if its fourteen.
I particularly relate to her poem At The Moment. At the moment I have stopped thinking about love as well, stopped considering that love is realistic or even possible. New relationships get terribly complicated in your late 50’s and my circumstances make it even more so.
I am contemplating getting a cat. It is about as much intimacy as I am capable at the moment in my one bedroom condo of a life. A cat wise enough to stand gaurd over me and interview any future prospective entanglements. By getting a cat, I’m sending a declaration to any possible future lover; love my dependent, if you’re going to love me. And if you don’t like cats or are allegeric to cats, we aren’t going to get along, so please move along, before one of us starts growling or howling. However, a cat would have warded off all the love I received in the past four years. It’s absence was just what I needed then, and its presence is just what I need now.
At The Moment
by Joyce Sutphen
Suddenly, I stopped thinking about Love,
after so many years of only that,
after thinking that nothing else mattered.
And what was I thinking of when I stopped
thinking about Love? Death, of course—what else
could take Love’s place? What else could hold such force?
I thought about how far away Death once
had seemed, how unexpected that it could
happen to someone I knew quite well,
how impossible that this should be the
normal thing, as natural as frost and
winter. I thought about the way we’d aged,
how skin fell into wrinkles, how eyes grew
dim; then (of course) my love, I thought of you.