A friend who knows my heart for poetry and that I was first a woman of the Plains, sent me this poem by Ted Kooser, Pulitzer Prize Winner in 2005 who lives in Nebraska and graduated from Iowa State, my alma mater. This poem is from the book Delights and Shadows, Copper Canyon Press, 2004. I’m glad this poem arrived for me now, as I turn 70 in a few days. I like its particularity of place and appreciation of how far we can travel in a very small distance. And I too can notice “the rows of sunken horseshoe pits” yet see the grapevine that “I can hold onto.”
Using this poem as a prompt for my own, and here is my take on “That Was I”.
That Was I
I was that woman you saw walking down Lowland Street,
in Eagle River, Alaska
slightly hunched in the cold,
a blue mask
on her face, it slightly wet with forced breath,
looking at her feet as even the low sun seemed cold
through the pines
and the shadows on the road more blue.
I had noticed I was shuffling a little,
weighed down with listless thoughts,
the sound of snow creaking ominously, old and stiff.
And that was I, who turned a corner
and, now out of the trees, hit with the full force of winter sun,
a warmth, weak but steady.
That was I who now saw how clearly the frosted branch
of the mountain ash
was exquisite against the blue sky and
stopped to be curious if three dimensions can take on four dimensions—
noticing that the tree in front of me was moving with brown wings,
not leaves, but Bohemian waxwings, in a mad competition
to chortle down bright red berries,
so intent they did not notice me standing
3 feet away in quiet, still delight,
inwardly turning to light.
Yes, that was I.