For Shefali, an Eighth Grader

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

We sat on your couch
and I read your poem
all three pages.

I was struck by the lyricism
of your lines
and the vivid visual details –
the soft jasmine petals of a girl’s beauty,
jewels dripping from her fingers and throat.

I shared these impressions
and you smiled with pride,
you probably thought
we were finished.

I asked you to read your poem aloud,
later to tell me why the beauty
and wealth of the girl
needed repeating on each page.

Quizzically, you looked at me
“My poems write themselves.”
I asked you to tell me more
about the girl, her age.
You thought, said “older than me,
In her twenties.”

I also asked about the “I” in the poem,
Was it a he or she?
Was there romantic interest?
What was happening
in the surroundings
as he or she became fixed
on the haunted look in the girl’s eyes?

Slowly, you brought light
into the shadows,
“the young woman,
though beautiful and rich,
was unwanted by her parents.”
We talked about ways
another young person
could have heard these rumors
without knowing the girl.
Now, you said, “the narrator, ‘I,’
boy or girl, wanted to bring
a glimmer of light to the girl’s eyes
through the hand of friendship.”

In the hour I stayed,
we became two poets
cutting and smoothing
the rough spots
of a poem together.
I carried an urn, filled with the water
from years writing and studying poetry.
Now, I was bringing this water
down the street to your house.
You were surprisingly thirsty.

Elane Gutterman is a founding Board member and current Literary Committee Chair of the West Windsor Arts Council. For the past nine years, she has been cultivating her voice and craft as a poet, while savoring all the people she has met who share this fervor for infusing life into words and lines. Her formal and free verse poems have appeared in the Kelsey Review, TheNewVerse.News, Patterson Literary Review and U.S. 1 Summer Fiction Issues.

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