Two Poems by Phyllis Klein

Because I Am a Wave Attached to an Ocean
            Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots 
                 into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you 
                     were forbidden to write. Rainer Maria Rilke 
To remind myself why I write, I remember the golden eagle I saw 
in an oak tree watching me. I remember the rattlesnake coiled around
a fence rattling, a fox so close on the trail I could almost reach out 
to stroke its coat of reddish fur that swirled in the shade trees. 
It was near a lake with an abundance of skate ray fish flapping 
their wings at the water’s surface. Because there is nothing else 
to do about loveliness than to bow down and worship it. Because I am 
a hose attached to a spigot of images dying to explain why 
there is so much suffering in a world that offers us this much beauty.
To remind myself why I write, I imagine how a heart dishes out
its love to swim in a lake with skate ray fish and their wings.
How my heart could be out there in the water and also inside my chest.
My heart, queen of the pond! While really, I’m at my desk pressing keys 
with white letters on dark gray background because. Because I am a waterfall 
attached to a river of spirits calling my name, Phyllis. Or maybe it’s Rilke 
with his advice. Maybe it’s the fox who stood still as a photograph 
in his foxy fur coat and whispered without words, Phyllis, write, 
and didn’t say why, but a door opened and I walked through. 

Still Standing
	—For Perie
I went to bed with words germinating,
climbing in and out of each breath, and woke up 
in a metaphor about you. I must have written this 
in my sleep and now it’s going to appear on a page 
vivid as the vermillion vase I saw at the Crocker Museum 
on my weekend in Sacramento. I was visiting 
with two poetry darlings of mine, and we said, 
Let’s find something to write about. 
Isn’t everything something to write about? 
I got caught up with a vase—so big, with its beautiful
ceramic belly all etched with a queen of the night cactus
flower, the kind that blooms only in the dark, and dies 
that next morning,. You would have liked it also,
I think. Maybe it’s the paradox, to capture a thing so fleeting
and carve it into a red eternity. I went to a garden in my mind
where these flowers were spewing their voluptuous scents,
and I watched transfixed in the moonlight as they slipped 
away. Here I am back to the precious withering, houses burned,
lost loves shaking down the rooms of a body’s house. And here we are 
you and I, survivors, old mountains, fir trees of love.
Phyllis Klein

Phyllis Klein is a psychotherapist and poetry therapist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, most recently the Comstock Review, Mad Swirl, and Live Encounters. She has won several finalist awards, and has been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes. Her book, The Full Moon Herald (Grayson Books 2020) was 2021 finalist in the Eric Hoffer awards. She hosts Poets in Conversation, a Zoom reading series started during the Pandemic.

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