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.