William Wordsworth defined poetry as “emotion recollected in tranquility.” While that may not always be the case, it does point out the usefulness of poetry in remembering, one of the spiritual disciplines. Re-member is the opposite of dis-member, and means to once again bring together the members or parts of an experience. Poetry helps me do this.
Sometimes the poem helps me work through a difficult memory and come to a place of new understanding and peace. Some of these poems are whole enough to publish or share with others. Many are for my eyes and heart alone. Often the poem is just a way to help small but meaningful events from the past surface and become accessible. And so the whole story grows clearer. The following is one such memory.
The last time I rode a roller coaster
I had just turned 50. I’m not sure
what made me get on, but somehow
I found myself belted in, gripping
the arm of my husband of some 25 plus
years, as we started the slow ascent.
Its name, “The Viper,” should have
made me think twice. I thought more
than twice on the way up. “I’m
sorry for everything,” I prayed, eyes
shut tight. “Please save me.” Poised
three seconds at the top, I forgot to breathe.
Breath and prayer became irrelevant
as we plummeted down, then up
and around and down again, trees and
buildings a blur, the death grip
on my loved one’s arm tightening.
But somewhere on that last curve,
seconds before we eased to the station,
I looked at him. He looked at me. We grinned.
The third time around I sang Psalms.