This week we feature a new poem by Molly Spencer. Spencer’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Linebreak, Mid-American Review, New England Review, and elsewhere. She’s a student at the Rainier Writing Workshop and a teaching-artist for California Poets in the Schools.
For many years when my children were small, I was ill but undiagnosed. This poem began its work in me after an appointment during which a doctor said to me, “Your disease is still ripening.” He meant, I suppose, that it was still developing and had not yet revealed itself fully. I was disturbed at his use of the word ripening—a word that, until then, had been full of only positive meanings and connotations for me—so his phrase began to haunt me. Around the same time, I went with my family to the Minnesota History Center near our then-home in St. Paul, where I read about the locust plagues of the 1870’s and one community’s response to them. Somehow, these strands wove together in my mind: the idea of ripening, the idea of plagues; the uncertainty of waiting for something (bad) to unfold, our powerlessness in the face of things outside our control. I write to puzzle things out, to understand the world and myself in the world. This poem was the work of interrogating that space of uncertainty and powerlessness, and how to live within it.
After Reading the Story of Assumption Chapel in Cold Spring, Minnesota