Two Poems by Chiara Di Lello

These two poems by Chiara Di Lello look closely at mental health and the writer’s process, questioning what we sit with, and what sits with us…

by: Chiara Di Lello

Ars Poetica

Ellen had a frog pond behind her house
a glory of weeping willow by the door
a screened-in side porch so full of boxes
we snuck through its narrows like a hedge maze

every plant pot’s soil held a treasure
rock or glass, tiny turtle made of brass
her books had overrun the endless shelves
and so a little stack sat on each stair.

I thought a house with seven cats would mean
soft creatures to stroke at every turn
instead I roved on hands and knees submerged
in dusty books seeking the disappeared.

What seven year old seriously believes
that the way to get anything worthwhile
is sit quiet and wait? I persevered.

In my campus house years later I heard
recorded Susan Stewart laugh and say
that every time she finishes a poem 
terror overtakes her because it feels
so improbable she’ll ever write again.

To be a poet is to know that fear.
That agony our badge, familiar. 
Ellen was a writer – of course she was.
Maybe the cats weren’t about collecting
but a living breathing optimism:

If I sit among the potted cacti
and glass end tables on the velvet couch
among tea mugs, inhalers, books, and books
I can draw out the thing I want the most
trust its emerging, prowling and proud
with liquid indifference on silent pink paws.
Describe Your Perfect Date

my dog thinks the plastic bag in the tree is a bird
the shredded black wisp has been stuck as long as I’ve lived here
and my eyes flick to it too — impulse, lizard brain

the summer I skipped S’s wedding it wasn’t about him
I couldn’t see myself in that tumble of joy and enjoyment
no one will miss me, I thought, so why go

that summer I staggered into walls no matter what door I entered
but a cardinal outside the kitchen window could always catch my eye
in June the purple globes of allium took flight and it changed nothing
but I said their name like a token, a password

years later over lunch he said how sad he was that I hadn’t been there
S, I mean, who has a child I still haven’t met
the wind whips the plastic bag around and again my eyes snag it
the things we come back to close as a twin, a bit
of nerve ending always open to the air

not choice exactly, and not comfort
posts for our tethers
the pin holding the moth

Chiara Di Lello is a writer and educator. She delights in public art, public libraries, and getting improbable places by bicycle. For a city kid, she has a surprisingly strong interest in beekeeping. Find her poems at Whale Road Review, Rust + Moth, Parentheses Journal, and Best New Poets, among others.

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