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By Patty Paine

Go back to that stream, touch
your lips to the cold, clear quivering,
draw into yourself a time when it was simple
as this to be quenched, to draw in what was
needed. Walk back over the dewed grass
of your past, past the water tower you filled
with dark imaginings, feel
the air crisp & clean on your skin, call
this hope, and carry it
to these moments when a photograph
can send you spiraling, your husband
now six months gone, waiting at the bottom
of an escalator in some airport
or another, everyone hurrying to be somewhere
else, except for this one man, waiting
for you to descend. How a face can be
indelible, yet fade so quickly, is an alchemy
best left unknowable. Hold that sting
of hope, and call out
the name of one who ministered
to you, over & over, until from the dark
you hear your own name return
to you, wild, and rising and clear.

Today’s poem originally appeared in Thrush and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Patty Paine is the author of Grief & Other Animals (Accents Publishing), The Sounding Machine (Accents Publishing), Feral (Imaginary Friend Press), Elegy & Collapse (Finishing Line Press), and co-editor of Gathering the Tide: An Anthology of Contemporary Arabian Gulf Poetry (Garnet Publishing & Ithaca Press) and The Donkey Lady and Other Tales from the Gulf (Berkshire Academic Press). Her poems, reviews, and interviews have appeared in Blackbird, Verse Daily, The Atlanta Review, Gulf Stream, The Journal and many other publications. She is the founding editor of diode poetry journal and Diode Editions. She is an Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar where she teaches writing and literature, and is Interim Director of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem is one I encourage you to read over and over. For each reading is like opening the next layer of a Russian doll, and there is always more waiting to be discovered within. While one reading simply does not do the poem justice, you honor yourself, dear reader, each time you slip deeper into these words.

Start in media res. Start in motion. Begin not at the beginning, but by turning back. The world of the poem is visceral. Go on, touch the stream, feel the “cold, clear quivering.” Go deeper now. “[D]raw into yourself a time when it was simple / as this to be quenched, to draw in what was / needed.” Move backwards; a poem—a life—in rewind. Let the story unfold in this way—cinematic, emotive, devastating. Let the reverse motion be what propels you forward. You are Lot’s Wife. You are Orpheus. There is only looking back, but looking back leaves you alone in the dark, “hear[ing] your own name return / to you, wild, and rising and clear.”

What a fraught landscape, yes, but what a gift to have been taken on such a journey by such a guide.

Want more from Patty Paine?
Buy The Sounding Machine from Amazon
Buy Feral from Imaginary Friend Press
diode poetry journal
Diode Editions
Interview on The Best American Poetry blog

About Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan is the Managing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita. She is also the founder of Reviving Herstory. Sivan welcomes feedback, poetry submissions, and solicitations of her writing via email at sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com.
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  1. philipparees says:

    Reblogged this on INVOLUTION: Science and God: Reality Redefined and commented:
    A refreshment in the cold clear air , while we wait for convoluted argument. As always Sivan finds another gem, no a full polished Opel with a thousand changing colours!

  2. philipparees says:

    Your Saturday offerings are all jewels. I have read WB Yeats on here and now this. Reblogged ( is that not a dreadful word amidst all these better ones?) and will now share further.

    • Sivan Butler-Rotholz says:

      Thank you, Philippa, and thank you for the Yeats! Mr. Yeats and I share common ancestors–and the Butler in our name–from the Butlers of Ormond!

      • philipparees says:

        More synchronicity today. I have a connection with Elizabeth Barrett Browning but I would swap (probably?) for Yeats. Perhaps I could go further back and find some link in the litter of all my Irish forbears and hang on to both!

  3. Maya Elashi says:

    ‘~~~Sivan finds another gem,~~~’ Indeed! ‘~~~except for this one man, waiting for you to descent.~~~’ And, ‘Go back to that stream, touch your lips to the cold, clear quivering.~~~’
    And, ‘~~~Until from the dark, you hear your own name return to you, wild, and rising, clear.’ Again, Yes! Sivan and Patty Paine (a movie-star name!): A ****gem****!

  4. lovely, thank you. As one who has written about the loss of a husband, I was especially touched by this poem.

  5. arlainash says:

    I posted this on the Facebook page for the poetry workshop I lead and am using it for a writing prompt.

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