On Wanting Only One Thing

Jul 31, 2020

Today’s poem is “On Wanting Only One Thing” by Rachel Contreni Flynn.  Rachel was raised in Indiana, and is the author of 2 prize-winning full length collections, Ice, Mouth, Song (Tupelo Press) and Tongue (Red Hen Press). She’s the editor of the Beloit Poetry Journal and an employment lawyer by trade. Rachel lives with her family in an old farm house in North Gorham. 

 She writes, “This poem was written on the dock of my family's camp on Mount Desert Island.  It's a love poem to my husband, though I'm not particularly given to love poems in general!  On revision, I paid attention to knitting together the lines and stanzas with sound effects of internal rhyme, assonance, and alliteration, to make the poem into as much of a song and as rhythmic and melodic as possible without overdoing it.”

On Wanting Only One Thing
by Rachel Contreni Flynn

for Patrick

This morning the hooded merganser
appears lazy on the lake, puckered feet tucked
beneath her rump so she’s just coasting,
just carving with the cargo of her body

a sloppy channel through snake grass,
silent as a handbag.  The merganser pays
no attention to kites swooping in the spruce,
loons keening in the coves, or cormorants

airing their wings on the shore.  The merganser
never swivels her head for sleep or grief
or even grooming, so it seems she might be stupid
or nearly dead.  But then, at the bright twist

of fin beneath her, her soul becomes a syringe.
She unhinges her joints into sleek steel,
plunges through cold water, small heart soaring,
mind clenched behind hopeful, topaz eyes.

from Ice, Mouth, Song (Tupelo Press 2005) 
Poem Copyright © 2019 by Rachel Contreni Flynn