I love the plain statement and clear-eyed attitude of the speaker in this week’s poem. This person looks back on her life in the woods with a profound sense of loss but not an ounce of nostalgia.

Dawn Potter is the author or editor of seven books of prose and poetry. “Same Old Story,” her most recent poetry collection, was a judge’s nominee for the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry. Her memoir, “Tracing Paradise: Two Years in Harmony with John Milton,” won the 2010 Maine Literary Award in Nonfiction. After many years in Harmony, she now lives in Portland.

The Maine Woods

By Dawn Potter

Don’t imagine I was Thoreau.

I had a driveway, though no one drove up it much,

and I had a car and gasoline, and a telephone

that rang now and again, and lamps


that often stayed lit, and a faucet that often

spouted water, and armloads of firewood

and a cook stove, and most evenings

I had baseball on the radio.


For a while I had a dog, but then

the dog died. On Friday nights

I even had a husband.

Oh, I was not Thoreau, not even close,


though I did have a vernal pool that was almost

a pond, and a footpath twisting

among ancient pines, and a creek

chattering and singing among the stones.


On the nights I had a husband

the kitchen hummed and the pillows sang

and a cat complained at the door.

But on most nights my shadow


trembled in the gleam of a cloudy moon.

Small predators yipped in the dark,

and I could not find my face in the mirrors.

Up and down the stairs I trudged, up and down


the narrow treads. At dawn I folded the shirts.

I baked the bread. I washed the floors

and hung out the sheets.

It was important to force time


through a sieve. I avoided taking

strong measures with myself.

Tears were a practical solution,

and I called on them twenty times a day.


I was never joyful, not for a moment,

but sometimes I was happy.

I begged the windblown trees to sweep the sky.

I coaxed the jays to scream their love.


Loneliness was better

than never coming home,

and never coming home

is the tale I’m about to tell.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2017 Dawn Potter. It appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to pressherald.com/tag/deep-water.

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