I built and erected a poetry box — think little library, but simpler — last October, and there it stood, cheery, if not lonely, for months, displaying my typewritten poems and the ones from friends. I named it The Millyard Poetry Box.
And then a pandemic spread. People stayed home for weeks, until they started to walk in their neighborhood, as if for the first time.
The Millyard Poetry Box began making friends. I know this because poems, hand-written on lined paper and scrawled across plain white paper, began appearing in the box.
There’s the poem from Ruthie Woodbridge, one of the Pedal People in Northampton, who wrote a prose poem about a friend without a name who one day told Ruthie how much he appreciated her work.
Some people paint pictures and write haiku about their parrots. The last poem is a water-faded poem by William Stafford, the West Coast poet and teacher, that someone typed on a small piece of paper and dropped behind the plexiglass exterior.
The poem’s been up about a week, and I try to read it as often as I can, because, well, it’s Stafford and he knows. The poem starts:
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
My poem New England Palm Sunday Prayer is the first one I hung in the box. It’s a poem I wrote a few years ago, and has been rejected by any number of publications. It’s found its place, the poetry box next to the railroad tracks. Walgreen’s Drugstore sits in the background across the tracks. This is self-publishing at its most primitive and, dare I say, an improvement to the neighborhood.
I wanted to hang my poem Letter to the Neighbor who Calls the Fire Department When I Burn Illegally first, but I decided that a snarky first poem might set the wrong tone. The poem is an invitation to my neighbor, whoever it is, to come talk to me before calling the authorities when I burn without a permit. I set down four principles of our neighborhood:
• Pull your shades during intimacy
• Shovel your snow, help your neighbors shovel theirs
• Mind the kids, even if they’re not yours
• Spend a few moments chatting with neighbors, it thickens our bonds
Those four tenets of the Millyard neighborhood, any neighborhood, seem even more applicable now, when we need more from each other, more talk, more help with the kids and the gardens, more poetry.
The Millyard Poetry Box can be found at the intersection of Bradford and Woodmont Streets in Northampton. I first wrote about it on Mr.K’s Blog. You can read the post in full here.