Willingly

By Tess Gallagher b. 1943 Tess Gallagher
When I get up he has been long at work,
his brush limber against the house.
Seeing him on his ladder under the eaves,
I look back on myself asleep in the dream
I  could not carry awake. Sleep
inside a house that is being painted,
whole lifetimes now only the familiar cast
of morning light over the prayer plant.
This “not remembering” is something new
of where you have been.
 
What was settled or unsettled in sleep
stays there. But your house
under this steady arm is leaving itself
and you see this gradual surface of
new light covering your sleep
has the greater power.
You think now you felt brush strokes or
the space between them, a motion
bearing down on you—accumulation
of stars, each night of them
arranging over the roofs of entire cities.
 
His careful strokes whiten the web,
the swirl of woodgrain blotted
out like a breath stopped
at the heart. Nothing has changed
you say, faithlessly. But something has
cleansed you past recognition. When
you stand near his ladder looking up
he does not acknowledge you,
and as from daylight in a dream you see
your house has passed from you
into the blessed hands of others.
 
This is ownership, you think, arriving
in the heady afterlife of paint smell.
A deep opening goes on in you.
Some paint has dropped onto your shoulder
as though light concealed an unsuspected
weight. You think it has fallen through
you. You think you have agreed to this,
what has been done with your life, willingly.

Tess Gallagher, "Willingly" from Amplitude: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1987 by Tess Gallagher.  Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press.All rights reserved. www.graywolfpress.org

Source: Willingly (Graywolf Press, 1984)

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Poet Tess Gallagher b. 1943

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Living, Life Choices, Relationships, Home Life, Activities, Jobs & Working

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Tess  Gallagher

Biography

Poet, essayist, and short story writer Tess Gallagher was born in 1943 in Port Angeles, Washington, to a logging family. Her early years were marked by the rhythms of seasonal work, as well as the landscape of both the Northwest and the Ozarks, where her grandparents lived. “I don’t know how many children really get to explore vast amounts of territory like that,” she has said in interviews. “It builds something in you.” . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, Relationships, Home Life, Activities, Jobs & Working

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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