There’s nostalgia, which serious writers regularly lampoon, for good reasons, I suppose–‘though I’m not, you’ll notice, one-hundred-percent certain of this. There’s also affectionately-clear-eyed-looking-back, an as yet unnamed but regular feature of poems that engage me on first encounter. This sort of looking back might flirt with nostalgia, but it’s not interested in a serious relationship. It also acknowledges with full immersive pleasure that each one of us has been somewhere.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say you are where you’ve been (as we often say, you are what you eat), but there’s certainly some truth to it. Seuss’s poems make me think: you are the places you’ve been and paid attention to. Her poems are simply laden with the stuff of places she’s been—or at least, they seem to be. With poems, after all, one must leave room for the possibility that all is invention.
Diane Seuss’s poem, “This is now,” falls into that nameless category of poems about the past that are not nostalgic and that are textured with placeful things. (And maybe it’s ever so slightly elegiac.) I’d already enjoyed every poem I’d read in Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open, when I came upon “This is now,” which made me want to drop everything and share it here. Di said, yes, so here you go.
This is now
i had a bright aquamarine
blouse i called my power shirt.
if you were far enough north the light
had a yellow-green hue.
suffering was thin.
buttered saltines and cocoa. two marshmallows
were enough. the black phone had a cord curly
as a pig’s tail. you could only stray
so far. three choices
for pizza toppings. emerald green shampoo
through which a pearl would sink slowly,
and breck, thin and gold,
princess elixir. my boyfriend’s skin
was the color of skim milk. when the rock star
died you were sad but you didn’t throw up.
if you teased it enough
your hair would rise
like jesus in his meringue dress.
things blew up, but not all the time. when one
person died it made a huge sound
like a piano lid slamming. war was blue
if you watched it at night with the lights off.