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Good Letters

Wakefield’s poem presents the metaphor of a peach as the speaker’s body: “I’ll let the sun singe the peach, / my flesh, luxurious, ruined.” The image of the body as a soft fruit blurs the boundaries between human and nature, planting identity within context. In this way, “To Begin With” reminds me of Mark Strand’s “Keeping Things Whole” and Denise Levertov’s “Action.” The repetition of the “I” and the sense of absence joins these poems in a frank depth, one that relies on interconnectivity and awareness. Wakefield’s lush details tether our senses to the speaker’s surroundings, tightening the bonds between each element, like the “grass a green halo,” “my mother’s washcloth,” and “the hard pit of my heart.” With acute awareness, the speaker apologizes to the grass, “Excuse me, grass, for keeping / you in the dark while I lie here.” In these lines, the speaker at once acknowledges that the presence of a body, or a peach, requires the absence of something else: light and food for the plant life she obscures. With a delicate balance of language, Wakefield creates a taut web, each strand heavy with meaning and each gap a window for more.

—Erin Griffin Collum

To Begin With,” by Kathleen A. Wakefield

I am going to lie down in the field,
grass a green halo over my head.

I’ll let the sun singe the peach,
my flesh, luxurious, ruined.

Let rain have its way with me
so I can feel my mother’s washcloth

on my face, hand I turned from.
Lord, soften the hard pit of my heart.

Excuse me, grass, for keeping
you in the dark while I lie here

considering what I will,
and will not say.

This poem was originally published in issue 87 of Image.

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The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Written by: Kathleen A. Wakefield

Kathleen A. Wakefield’s Notations on the Visible World won the 1999 Anhinga Prize for Poetry. Her work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, Midwest Quarterly, Poetry, Rattle, Sewanee Review, and Shenandoah. She has taught creative writing at the Eastman School of Music and as a poet-in-the-schools.

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