by Barbara Lefcourt
In the dozen or so years I’ve been writing poetry, which is a late-in-life pursuit for me, I find poems grow mostly from personal encounters. I’m humbled by the experiences of others, which are often so very different from the life I’ve been leading. Oh, yes, there are many commonalities, but the fabric of individual lives, of particular place, cultural history and its expression and unique personality are infinitely varied.
The few times I try to write from the point of view of the “other” grow from a kind of kinship I have developed with that particular different culture and place. Empathy is a natural extension of my sense of feeling connected so I have more confidence in my ability to imagine truths of particular situations. In earlier, inexperienced stages of my life they might have seem alien.
Writing poems help me reflect on the gifts, the tribulations and the mysteries of being alive. In so doing, I seem to have a greater hold on what has come to pass. Here are some of those early reflections.
Smells of paint stored in toddler memory
with images of Mom
breathing expectation for an apartment
in the brand new building.
Some years later she let me
flutter out with friends
to tear along our home’s ramps and tunnels,
explore the side courts.
We’d hover in the backyard
sipping honeysuckle nectar from blooms
that tantalized us through fences
behind the single-family homes.
On wet days we’d scout hallways,
speed up and down all six stories.
Pumped, we tumbled into elevator
especially to burst forth in the basement
where mysteries lurked in incinerator closet
and cavernous furnace room.
Kids whispered that someone once saw
the superintendent high on a ladder next to
what looked like a tall ship.
In warm seasons we’d flee the streets
to sprint above the top flight
and open wide the door to the roof.
Revving up across wood walkways,
we’d reach the edge leaning toward
that world of trees, aging homes,
smattering of new apartments buildings,
the elevated train line,
church spires, schools and shops.
Don’t know what held us back,
poised over the fire escape.
Puffed-up, almost airborne,
we’d turn, scoot full throttle
into lines of billowing sheets
richly sweetened with unfettered sun.
Barbara Lefcourt was born, raised and educated in New York City and moved to Kitchener-Waterloo with her young family in 1964. She had taught elementary school before staying home to raise three children. She became a member of the CWC in 2003 after starting to write poetry around the time she retired from her mid-life career as teacher of Literacy and Basic Skills for Adults.