Why You Were Shown to the Sun

When I would be in the northeast, David Whyte had announced a poetry workshop at the Omega Institute in the Hudson Valley. With the intention of learning a bit about the craft from a master, and hearing Whyte recite from many poets, repeating favorite or obscure lines, I signed up. I was scared, because although I had published prose in several forms, I knew nothing about poetry.

Whyte gave us lines from his memory, lines from Yeats and other famous poets and, without a pause, from his own lovely work. Then he inveigled us into trying some lines of our own and sharing with the group.

On the way to lunch we passed a stand of flowering lilies, thick with pollen. Back in the workshop a young women said she wanted to write about freckles. She had many. Her mother had told her, “it’s my fault, I left you too long in the sun.”

Shuddering at the parental remark, I dashed off the following:

When you find the one who knows how,

how to dapple your body

so lightly it feels like a foretaste,

a foretaste of other kisses,

to dapple from forehead to feet

your entire bodily surface

with dot after dot of dense saffron,

with pollen from August lilies,

then your whole skin will know

why it was shown to the sun

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