Why I Write Poetry

by Susie Whelehan | The Sky Laughs At Borders

Why I Write Poetry


After Major Jackson


Because words and rhythm are medicine

      covered by God’s Socialist Health Care Plan for Humanity.

Because nursery rhymes were mother’s milk to me,

      Dr. Seuss a taste-treat after school

      and Psalms were served on Sundays.

Because another drone just killed someone’s sweet child.

Because…Naomi Shihab Nye.

Because I want to be more Buddhist

     and I am better at being one with the world

     when writing alone in my lovely office

     than when I am out in the world with narcissists

who text while driving.

Because structure spurs surprise

     and there are forms I can follow

     that restrict, and so, release me as I write.

Because…Wendell Berry.

Because I don’t aspire to be rich.

Because it’s good cardio.

Because the sky laughs at borders.

Because…Mary Oliver.

Because it takes up to eight million gallons of water

for each fracking site,

    (over one million as I type) and that water is rendered

toxic forever

while out west people were charged for collecting

rainwater and using it in their gardens

and I am not making this up. 

Because I don’t have to do all the work myself

     and often it’s better when I step out of the way.

Because…Marie Howe.

Because my grandmother would float a single peony

in a bowl on her table,

and my mother would float a single peony in a bowl on her table,

      and the peonies in my garden have just unfurled

 and are flaunting themselves.

Because I was ten when I found my mother’s vodka

hidden in the kitchen, fourteen when she died, and

eighteen when I first spoke about her drinking

to anyone.


Because sea otters know how to play and never worry

 about self-esteem or taxes.

Because it is my presence to this swivel chair, this messy

desk, this breeze, huge fly, ice cream truck tinkling by, this ordinary time, this now

      that matters. 

Because Jesus taught in metaphors.

      I mean parables—

      I mean metaphors.    


Because the Japanese have the word, hanami

      which is the act of gathering for the sole purpose

of admiring cherry blossoms.

Because…Angelou, Basho, Bass, Crozier, Eliot, Frost,

Hafiz, Heaney, Harjo, Neruda, O’Donohue, Piercy,

Schneider, Shakespeare, Yeats and Emily.

Because I never massaged my father’s feet

until he was bedridden and unable to use them.

Because sugar, salt and fat do not appear together

naturally in any food

and someone created Snickers.

Because my husband and I have two sons who

serve humanity in healing capacities:

one researching the brain,

and the other busking on street corners

with his accordion.

Because it is breath itself imbued with 

inspiration, imagination, illumination, intonation,

invocation, invitation, validation, lubrication,

emancipation, recognition, resurrection and

can be experimental, traditional, metrical, lyrical,

sensorial, spiritual, satirical, historical, hysterical,

political, mystical, musical, whimsical and

as I mentioned earlier, medicinal, thus covered by

God’s Socialist Health Care Plan for Humanity.


Because someday Bruce Springsteen might want

to collaborate on a song

and I need to be ready.