Today’s poem is “Bells, Bells” by Linda Aldrich. She has published two collections of poetry, Foothold (Finishing Line Press, 2008) and March and Mad Women (Cherry Grove Collections, 2012). Linda lives in Portland and teaches English at Southern Maine Community College. She is currently serving as Portland’s poet laureate.
She writes:"My misunderstanding of a headline in the Portland Press Herald actually helped me find a way to access my anguish about our government's downward spiral toward increased authoritarianism and discrimination."
Portland, Maine, 2018
by Linda Aldrich
The slender baguette of my daily paper slides
out of its plastic sleeve, another soggy day,
and the headline reads like a fairy tale,
Who’s Stealing the Bells? I wonder
if this is the latest terrorist tactic in Europe,
perhaps London or Rome, iconic symbols taken
from cathedrals or even the unknown stone church
I remember in my Paris neighborhood, the bell calling
the hours and Mass, the sound both startling and
reassuring. And how I used to imagine Paris bells
ringing when the Nazi Occupation ended.
Then I read the missing bells are not church bells,
but ocean bells, buoy bells, “navigational aids,”
each weighing 225 lbs, not easy things to steal,
cast in high heat, forged to specific pitch,
the larger the bell, the deeper the tone, the bronze
an amalgam of what endures, a tempered toughness
and pure vessel of resonance that carries long past
its strike action, vibrating out and out.
Like her voice, I think. Like Aretha.
The Queen of Soul died this week.
Last night we watched her sing for Pavarotti,
all of herself given to her art and the release
of each note, a rare effulgence, now gone.
A map shows me where the bells were here, here,
here along the coast, nine in all, the empty buoys
bobbing dangerously silent now without tongues,
and I imagine boats will soon go adrift in thick fog
to dash on rocks, a sudden splitting of wood,
the thrash and fist, the drowning
of cries, the going down,
down, of a ship, our flagship,
lights sinking, blinking out.
And did I say Aretha Franklin died this week?
Nessun dorma, Nessun dorma, she sang.
None shall sleep. None shall sleep.
Poem copyright ©2019 Linda Aldrich.