First Gestures

Julia Spicher Kasdorf

 
Among the first we learn is good-bye,
your tiny wrist between Dad's forefinger
and thumb forced to wave bye-bye to Mom,
whose hand sails brightly behind a windshield.
Then it's done to make us follow:
in a crowded mall, a woman waves, "Bye,
we're leaving," and her son stands firm
sobbing, until at last he runs after her,
among shoppers drifting like sharks
who must drag their great hulks
underwater, even in sleep, or drown.
Living, we cover vast territories;
imagine your life drawn on a map--
a scribble on the town where you grew up,
each bus trip traced between school
and home, or a clean line across the sea
to a place you flew once. Think of the time
and things we accumulate, all the while growing
more conscious of losing and leaving. Aging,
our bodies collect wrinkles and scars
for each place the world would not give
under our weight. Our thoughts get laced
with strange aches, sweet as the final chord
that hangs in a guitar's blond torso.
Think how a particular ridge of hills
from a summer of your childhood grows
in significance, or one hour of light--
late afternoon, say, when thick sun flings
the shadow of Virginia creeper vines
across the wall of a tiny, white room
where a girl makes love for the first time.
Its leaves tremble like small hands
against the screen while she weeps
in the arms of her bewildered lover.
She's too young to see that as we gather
losses, we may also grow in love;
as in passion, the body shudders
and clutches what it must release.
 
From Eve's Striptease by Julia Kasdorf. Copyright © 1998 by Julia Kasdorf. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15261. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

A Family History by Julia Kasdorf
At dusk the girl who will become my mom
Mennonites by Julia Spicher Kasdorf
We keep our quilts in closets and do not dance


Further Reading

Poems About Aging
Abandonment Under the Walnut Tree
by D. A. Powell
Affirmation
by Donald Hall
Age
by Robert Creeley
Age and Death
by Emma Lazarus
Almost Sixty
by Jim Moore
Beyond the Years
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Blues
by Elizabeth Alexander
Demeter in Paris
by Meghan O'Rourke
E.H.
by John Koethe
El Dorado
by Edgar Allan Poe
Fear of the Future
by John Koethe
Fixed Interval
by Devin Johnston
Forgetfulness
by Billy Collins
Gerontion
by T.S. Eliot
Get Up, Please
by David Kirby
In View of the Fact
by A. R. Ammons
Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year
by Maxine Kumin
Moonlight
by Sara Teasdale
My Lost Youth
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
My Skeleton
by Jane Hirshfield
Poem at Thirty
by Michael Ryan
Preparation
by Effie Waller Smith
Quiet
by Tony Hoagland
Refusing at Fifty-Two to Write Sonnets
by Thomas Lynch
Rock Me to Sleep
by Elizabeth Akers Allen
Self-Portrait
by Adam Zagajewski
Since Nine—
by C. P. Cavafy
The Chicago Poem
by Jerome Rothenberg
The Edges of Time
by Kay Ryan
The Human Seasons
by John Keats
The Tower
by W. B. Yeats
The Widows of Gravesend
by L. S. Asekoff
The Young Man's Song
by W. B. Yeats
this kind of fire
by Charles Bukowski
To a Young Girl at a Window
by Margaret Widdemer
To Chloe: Who for his sake wished herself younger
by William Cartwright
To Earthward
by Robert Frost
to my last period
by Lucille Clifton
To Think of Time
by Walt Whitman
Two Horses and a Dog
by James Galvin
When You are Old
by W. B. Yeats
Poems For Graduation
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII [All the world's a stage]
by William Shakespeare
Beyond the Years
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Dreams
by Langston Hughes
Friends, I Will Not Cease
by Vachel Lindsay
If—
by Rudyard Kipling
Invictus
by William Ernest Henley
Knows how to forget! (433)
by Emily Dickinson
My Heart Leaps Up
by William Wordsworth
The Character of a Happy Life
by Sir Henry Wotton
The Choir Invisible
by George Eliot
The Graduate Leaving College
by George Moses Horton
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
The Writer
by Richard Wilbur
Today We Make the Poet's Words Our Own
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Up-Hill
by Christina Rossetti
Back to School Poems
Apples
by Grace Schulman
Being Jewish in a Small Town
by Lyn Lifshin
Evening Walk as the School Year Starts
by Sydney Lea
Gradeschool's Large Windows
by Thomas Lux
In Michael Robins’s class minus one
by Bob Hicok
M. Degas Teaches Art & Science at Durfee Intermediate School, Detroit 1942
by Philip Levine
Mary's Lamb
by Sarah Josepha Hale
Niggerlips
by Martín Espada
Nonsense Alphabet
by Edward Lear
One A.M. [excerpt]
by David Young
Panty Raid
by Terri Ford
Pledge
by Elizabeth Powell
Sentimental Education
by Mary Ruefle
Sick
by Shel Silverstein
The Hand
by Mary Ruefle
The High-School Lawn
by Thomas Hardy
The Junior High School Band Concert
by David Wagoner
The Testing-Tree
by Stanley Kunitz
Theme for English B
by Langston Hughes
We Real Cool
by Gwendolyn Brooks
Why Latin Should Still Be Taught in High School
by Christopher Bursk
You and Your Ilk
by Thomas Lux
Essays About Teaching
Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? [excerpt]
by Kenneth Koch
The Read-Aloud Handbook [excerpt]
by Jim Trelease
A Treasury of Read-Alouds: Poetry for Children
by Jim Trelease
Can Poets Teach?: On Writers Teaching Writing
by Joan Houlihan
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Poetry
by Bill Zavatsky
Gimmicks
by Ron Padgett
How I Teach Poetry in the Schools
by Jack Collom
Kindness
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Serious Play: Reading Poetry with Children
Teaching Poetry: Accurate Songs, or Thinking-in-Poetry
by Eleanor Cook
The Accomplished and the Insufficient: What Readers Should Ask From a Poem
by Thom Ward
The Hand
by Mary Ruefle
The Teacher
by Hilarie Jones
Why Latin Should Still Be Taught in High School
by Christopher Bursk
With Tenure
by David Lehman
You Begin
by Margaret Atwood