“If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” ~ Emily Dickinson
Fasten your seat belts. This one left me reeling.
THE ONE AND THE OTHER
by Hayden Saunier
The child hums as he carries, too late,
his grandmother’s sugar-dusted lemon-glazed cake
down the street to the neighbor who needs to be cheered,
too late for the neighbor
who’s stepped into the air
of her silent front hall from a ladder-backed chair
her church dress just pressed, her head in a loop she tied
into the clothesline, too late
he unlatches the gate,
walks up the brick walk on his tiptoes, avoiding the cracks
toward the door she unlocked, left ajar, who knows why
or for whom, if on purpose
or not, but because he’s too late
she’s gone still when he reaches the door and because
he’s too late, as he calls out and looks, brilliant sun
burns through haze
pours through sidelights and bevels
through chandelier prisms, strikes white sparks and purples
on ceiling and walls, on the overturned chair, on her stockings
her brown and white
spectator shoes on the floor
and because he’s too late he remembers both terror and beauty
but not which came first. But enough of the one
that he ran
and enough of the other
to carefully lay down the cake at her feet.
~ posted by permission of the author, © 2011 Hayden Saunier. All rights reserved. (Rattle #36, Winter 2011)
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Hayden: “I love the way objects, images and stories connect and find their way into a poem. An old friend had sent me an outrageous pound cake one Christmas and when I described it as ‘sugar-dusted, lemon-glazed,’ the story of the boy in this poem, told to me years earlier, came straight to mind. Everything came together through that sunny yellow circle with its center missing — dense, empty, bitter, sweet, gestures we make too late, a child’s ability to take in everything at the same moment, at once, and complete. It was all in the cake.”
* * *
I still hold my breath every time I read this powerful, heartbreaking poem, as though I can’t believe what is happening, wishing I could somehow call the boy back to keep him from seeing what he will see.
The escalating urgency and suspense, and the intense crackle of opposites colliding are so masterfully executed detail by detail, phrase by phrase, in just one cascading sentence.
How fine is the line between terror and exhiliration — or are they one and the same?
We are left to ponder which is the greatest tragedy — that a woman committed suicide, that a child was traumatized, or that perhaps a life could have been saved if that cake had been delivered just five minutes earlier.
“The One and the Other” won the 2011 Rattle Poetry Prize, and is included in Hayden’s brand new book, Say Luck (Big Pencil Press, 2013), winner of the 2013 Kenneth & Geraldine Gell Poetry Prize.
I first stumbled upon “The One and the Other” online a couple of months ago while innocently searching for a cake poem, and have been haunted by it ever since. Totally unsuspecting, I could never have imagined, reading those first few words — “child hums . . . grandmother’s sugar-dusted lemon glazed cake” — that this poem would be laced with such a searing kaleidoscope of fragmented anguish.
I’d like to thank Hayden for granting me permission to share her poem and for providing a little backstory. Do pick up a copy of Say Luck; I’ve been slowly savoring and enjoying each and every poem.
♥ Visit the Rattle website to hear Hayden read “The One and the Other.”
♥ Hayden reads “Say Luck” at Listen Well.
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written by Hayden Saunier
selected by Laure-Anne Bosselaar
published by Big Pencil Press, 2013
Poetry, 94 pp.
*Foreword by Ms. Bosselaar
Hayden Saunier is a writer, actress, and teaching artist living in the Philadelphia area. She is the winner of the 2013 Gell Poetry Prize, 2011 Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize, and the 2011 Rattle Poetry Prize. She has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, is a Bucks County, PA, Poet Laureate, and the 2005 Robert Fraser Poetry Award Winner. Click here to visit her Official Website.
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The lovely, talented and snickerdoodle-loving Keri Collins Lewis is hosting today’s Roundup at Keri Recommends. Check out the full menu of poetic goodies being served up in the blogosphere and enjoy the holiday weekend!
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