Back in 2007, when I was pregnant with Zoë and deathly afraid of losing the pregnancy, I spent weeks on the couch with my feet up, willing my uterus to hold tight to that little bean. I lay there, wishing I could read, wishing I could focus, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t follow any kind of sustained narrative. Then a friend recommended Marie Howe’s What the Living Do. I ordered it, and as soon as it arrived, I devoured it, poem after fantastic poem, letting myself slip out of my life and into Howe’s words. I hated coming to the last poem in the collection.
I meant to revisit Howe’s work and buy her latest collection, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, but well, I got busy with my little Zoë, with making sure that Stella knew we still loved her. I got busy with teaching and writing and—everything. But then last week, one of my lovely students—hi, Carrie!—sent me one of Howe’s poems, and I remembered, instantly, why I love her work.
In honor of National Poetry Month, and because I love Marie Howe’s poetry, here is “Hurry,” reprinted with permission of author:
We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store
and the gas station and the green market and
Hurry up honey, I say, hurry hurry,
as she runs along two or three steps behind me
her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.
where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?
To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?
Today, when all the errands are finally done, I say to her,
Honey I’m sorry I keep saying Hurry–you walk ahead of me.
You be the mother.
And, Hurry up, she says, over her shoulder, looking
back at me, laughing. Hurry up now darling, she says,
hurry, hurry, taking the house keys from my hands.
Please check out her work if you’re not familiar with it. Revisit it if you are. And then raise your glass in honor of all the poets whose words save us just when we need to be saved.