Monday, October 28, 2013

Poems: 'Watching the Sea' and 'The Blue-footed Booby Mates for Life' by Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Readers of Maria Gillan's poetry may not immediately think of her as a poet of nature and the outdoors. Her poetry is most often associated with family, heritage, and the truth in personal events of a life. But The Outdoor Poet, edited by Robert Sward, recently used two poems from her new collection, The Silence in an Empty House (NYQ Books), on the site.

Robert Sward is the himself the author of numerous books of poetry including, most recently, New & Selected Poems, 1957 - 2011 (Red Hen Press).

In that new collection, Maria weaves the story of her husband's long illness, decline and death into a number of poems that center on nature and current events.

Watching The Sea

From the hotel balcony in Del Ray Beach, the sea
heaves and whirls, strewing white foam as it crashes
against the shore and the palm fronds bend backwards
in the wind. Later the storm passes and the palms
do their easy slow dance. The water turns a blue so bright
it is like the eyes of black-haired men in Sicily,
their eyes, deep as sapphires, set off by dark skies.
How soothing the calm sea, the sound of it rising
and falling like a whisper or a lullaby. I breathe in
the salt air, soft wind off the water,
the open, endless sky.

The Blue-footed Booby Mates for Life

In the last few weeks, you’ve suddenly gotten worse,
the disease robbing you of your ability to sound sane.
You tell me that you have been in Star Wars on the ship.

Althea hears noises in the night
and comes downstairs to find you sitting
next to your bed, your legs crossed.

“I just got back from a party,” you tell her. “People
were smoking; it was terrible. I need to go to sleep.”
You tell me you saw your mother. “Young or old?”

I ask. “Old,” you say. You tell me a troop of Boy Scouts
marched through your room. You complain
Althea made you miss the bus. “What bus?” I ask.

“The bus that came to take me to the Boy Scout leaders
meeting,” you exclaim, as though I should already know.
“Three times the bus came, and she

wouldn’t answer the door.” In the Galapagos Island,
the Blue-footed Booby mates for life. We, too,
have mated for life, at least 45 years of it, but now

your eyes cloud over and leave me behind. “It’s good
you’re getting to go on all these trips,” I say, but I can
hear my voice trembling. The Booby is a large black bird

with bright blue webbed feet. The female lays the eggs
and the male sits on them until they hatch. The doctor
tells me your sodium levels are extremely high

and we have to get you to drink more water, but you
don’t want it. “Are you trying to drown me?” you shout.
We flail around you, soaking your fingers in Ivory soap

like the doctor has told us to, because the blood
has stopped moving through your fingers and you’re
getting gangrene. “I need to sleep,” you say.

The male Booby places the Booby chick under his body
and keeps turning in a circle to protect the chick from the sun.
His mate clicks bills with him and rubs her bill against his

cheek. I lower the bedrail to say goodnight and rub my face
against your cheek. When you look at me, I’m not sure
you know who I am. “I love you,” I say. Your eyes clear

for a moment and you mumble, “I love you too,” then your eyes
cloud over again. By instinct, the Blue-footed Booby
mates for life. I think of their tenderness toward one another.

I wonder, if one of them dies, what happens to the other
who must live on alone. When you tell me you are waiting
for the bus, I am afraid. “Where am I going?” you ask,

and then you tell me all your dead were in your room
last night, so happy to see you.

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