Sheryl St. Germain
In Recovery: a Suite
We used to think there were no words
that could reach us,
unknot us from the cage of our lives,
only the music of substances,
the pulsing, breathless,
of what we had become.
Now, something in us has paused.
We’re commas, dashes—
even after twenty years or more
still inside a prepositional phrase
always in remission,
always praying for grace
we will never arrive
at past tense.
it’s the wrong word for what we are.
We’re not re-covered
we are revealed.
What else we are:
shells, wrecked against
an apathetic shore
the inner whorls of our lives
our most intimate
lips worn to a dull shine
someone will scavenge for us, see beauty
in how damage has shaped us
cracks in ancient walls
where small flowers
loose tiles in the floor of an old building
that sing when you walk over them
gnarly knots in trunks
where once were branches
crevasses in the glacier
of a ravaged heart—
here, here is the very place
to enter us.
there are days you grit through
wishing for that one thing
that would allow you
to not be here now
days when you are
to have woken at all
you work on a scarf knitting
and unknitting, starting again
so many times
you feel like Penelope
you write one small new thing,
clean one small room.
We are Buddhists and gardeners,
yoga instructors and hair dressers,
teachers and real estate brokers,
we are writers, painters, musicians,
bartenders, waitresses, comics.
Some of us are still funny. Some of us
are still sad. Some of us get our kids back.
Some of us do not.
Sometimes someone we knew in that other life
dies, a lover or a son or a dear friend,
and some of us relapse and some
of us do not. Some of us travel as far
away as we can: to Alaska, or Indonesia,
some of us stay home,
going to meetings and mentoring other lost ones.
At night, sometimes we close our eyes
remembering the best and worst of it,
the ecstasy in the blood, the taste
We are not happy, exactly,
nothing, as someone once wrote,
as simple as that.
When the dawn calls roll,
our bodies respond: present.
And we often wake
grateful for breath
in ways we never were in that other life,
believing again in the journey.
Sheryl St. Germain’s new poetry collection, The Small Door of Your Death, was released in Spring 2018 with Autumn House Press. A collection of her essays, Fifty Miles, is forthcoming with Etruscan Press in early Spring 2020. Sheryl has authored numerous books of poetry and two memoirs. With Sarah Shotland she also co-edited Words Without Walls: Writers on Addiction, Violence, and Incarceration, (Trinity University Press). Sheryl directs the MFA program in Creative Writing at Chatham University where she also teaches poetry and creative nonfiction. She is the co-founder and director of the Words Without Walls Program.