April is National Poetry Month! On the Blink is celebrating by showcasing the work of wonderful poets! First up is Ona Gritz, who works with me on the Wordgathering editorial team. Here’s what Ona says about poetry:
In this strange and scary moment in time when we’re isolating ourselves from one another out of both self protection and social responsibility, it strikes me that poetry offers a much needed form of intimacy. Even poems that aren’t particularly personal and narrative, as mine tend to be, invite readers near enough to experience the rhythms of another person’s mind. We get to see what moment, idea, or experiment has captured that writer’s attention. We share in their passions and obsessions, their humor and insight. Right now, when it’s inadvisable to get close enough to physically touch anyone outside our immediate households, poetry is an invitation, often by a stranger, to get even closer. Come, the poet says. For the length of time you set your own thoughts aside to fill your mind with my words, you and I get to be one.Ona Gritz
The poems below come from Border Songs: A Conversation in Poems, the chapbook Ona co-authored with Dan Simpson.
Surely you’ve been there,
walking on a street at the start of your twenties
under a downpour so sudden you’re drenched
moments after dismissing that first drop
as mere air conditioner spit on your skin.
Around you, people rush to cluster
beneath awnings and the narrow shelter of doorways.
But, though you can hear your mother’s voice
urging you to follow,
it isn’t cold, you haven’t far, and in truth,
you like the weight of your sopping hair
and how your clothes cling
as though pressed by the flat of a hand.
So, while people have begun to stare, a man leers
and a child says, “she crazy”, nudging his mother,
you keep your stride beneath the sky
of this particular day, taking what it has to offer.
I was maybe five when I first tried
to make sense of it, my split self,
the side that recognizes everything it touches,
the side that feels muted, slept on.
Why do I feel less on the right?
I wondered aloud and with the swiftness
of someone who’s been waiting to be asked,
my mom said, Your heart‘s on the left.
Like everyone’s. We were headed somewhere
in our blue Barracuda, my father focused
on the road, my mother gazing out
the passenger window as she defined the world.
I sat in back, the middle spot, feet on the hump,
left hand feeling for the ordinary drumbeat
I shared with every other living soul,
right not feeling much of anything at all.
There Among the Haves
A girl with one prosthetic leg dances
at a club in short skirt and heels
on the cover of SundayStyles, her
silver thigh textured like sequins,
hair over her face, not to hide
but she’s lost in that song.
I tape her photo next to my desk,
remember the morning I had you
touch my calves, the right thin
with palsy, the other, full and strong.
That same day we kissed like teens
in a New York café, your guide dog
curled like a throw rug at our feet.
“Anyone else making out?” you asked.
“Just us,” I said, eyeing an indifferent
crowd. And there, among the haves,
those with sight, with matching limbs,
you whispered that my breasts spell
a perfect C in braille. So this is how
it feels, I thought, to inherit the earth,
how it feels loving one of my own.
Meet the Poet
Ona Gritz‘s books include the poetry collections, Geode, a finalist for the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and Border Songs: A Conversation in Poems, written with her husband Daniel Simpson. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Catamaran Literary Reader, The Bellevue Literary Review, Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, and elsewhere. She and Daniel served as poetry editors for Referential Magazine and co-edited More Challenges For the Delusional, a writing guide and anthology featuring prompts by Peter Murphy. Ona is also a children’s author and essayist. Her nonfiction is listed among Notables in Best American Essays and Best Life Stories in Salon.
More to Read
- “Finding Myself on the Page” in The New York Times
- “I had spent more than enough time hiding and pretending” in The Observer/Guardian