Direct Address by Julia Alvarez:
I love those poems where writers turn to me,
addressing me as you- and though I know
that thousands upon thousands of readers
have trod his Leaves of Grass, I’m still convinced
it’s me Whitman’s instructing when he writes,
Look for me under your bootsoles.
The signs of those we love are everywhere,
their ghostly faces rushing by on trains
or forming in the clouds; nurseries belie
the stony closures in the graveyard.
That is the only the dead come back
as far as I can tell. My grandfather
surfaces in the locust’s gnarled trunk,
so comforting to touch his face again.
The bulldog wears my fourth grade teachers’ scowls;
I back away as when I was a child.
Pachelbel’s canon calms like Chucha’s arms.
And what a shock to find in a Vuillard
my grandmother peering out as if to catch
the lazy maids at their shenanigans.
I’d like to think this is how I’ll come back:
Lines in a poem that spring upon your lips,
though who the author was has slipped your mind.
It’s agency, not fame, I want: my words
At work, a slap awake, a soothing hand.
But since death’s likely to transform my wish,
there’s no direct address that I can give
where you should look for me. So you (yes you!),
keep watch! I could be under your bootsoles
or inside this poem already inside you.