Today I’m going to do what I did with Nancy Franson during Operation Poetry Dare with Tweetspeak Poetry. Every day, Nancy and I read a poem (from Every Day Poems) and shared our thoughts. After our dare concluded, I stopped doing this for a couple of months, then after the holidays, I’ve been doing it again, just in my journal.
Here’s one I did on Marilyn Yocum’s “The First Warm Rays.” (although I think her promotional title, “Thoughts While Sitting in Line at the Car Wash” is better).
First, I love poems about weather and how people react to it. It’s nice to know that even in snowy Ohio, where Marilyn lives, people have this bipolar reaction to weather depending on the time of year and how long it’s been since they’ve seen the sun: “just to feel the sun / behaving like itself again.”
After that lovely image, she veers to what the poem is really about: “Like the return of an estranged family member / or a friend you’ve had a falling out with.”
Now, I know part of Marilyn’s story. I can guess what might be behind this poem. But, I don’t want to say what I know, 1) because I believe in letting people tell their own stories, and 2) because I think the poem is good enough on its own. All of us have, if not an estranged family member, a friend we’ve had a falling out with. And the return of that relationship does feel like “the sun / behaving like itself again.”
Marilyn goes on to talk about absence and presence (which is what the poem is really about, whether it’s absence/presence in relationships or absence/presence of sunshine). So, what happens when there is a return? Well, it changes us. If it’s the sun, we all rush to wait in line at the car wash. If it’s a relationship, well, we do something about that, too, don’t we?
The third stanza begins, “And, / having gone so long without / we rush / arms wide / eager to embrace / and wash away what’s clung to us / in the interim.” I like how the short stanzas force you to slow down, to embrace every ray of that sunshine.
I also like how we get back to the car wash, where “what’s clung to us / in the interim” is washed away. I think of all the dust and dirt and mud that’s probably accumulated on these cars over weeks (months?) of snowy days and how good it feels to get them clean and see the true paint color again. The winter gunk is just an “interim,” but it doesn’t feel like it; it feels like winter will last for eternity. But unless you’re living inside “Game of Thrones,” it never does.
Marilyn will likely have a lot more winter before this is all over. But I think that every sunny day that’s above freezing, she should get in line and wash her car. And write another poem.