No, Singapore is not a city in Wisconsin, so read on. On Friday Chrisy and I went to a bed and breakfast with our friends Tony and Julie Cloyd. It was a really good experience. The Cloyds actually live in Shakopee, but for one night we stayed at the Aurora Staples Inn in Stillwater, Minnesota. Shakopee is south of Minneapolis whereas Stillwater is north of St. Paul and right on the border of Wisconsin. Thus, we were able to drive across the St. Croix River so I could take a geeky touristy photo by the Wisconsin sign. Anyway, The bed and breakfast we stayed at in Stillwater was actually a home. Constructed in the 1890s by lumber baron Isaac Staples, it was built for his daughter Aurora when she married Adolphus Hospes. Hopes fought in the civil war and survived the first charge at Gettysburg. There's a lot of history in Stillwater and at the inn. Yesterday I posted a poem that I wrote on Saturday morning while staying at the there. In addition to writing though, they had a large library of books around the house so I was also able to read a bunch of poetry during my stay. One pleasant surprise I had was a book of poetry by Mary Oliver. One of her poems, Singapore, is one of the most moving poems I have ever read. I thought I would share it with you.
In Singapore, in the airport,
A darkness was ripped from my eyes.
In the women’s restroom, one compartment stood open.
A woman knelt there, washing something
in the white bowl.
Disgust argued in my stomach
and I felt, in my pocket, for my ticket.
A poem should always have birds in it.
Kingfishers, say, with their bold eyes and gaudy wings.
Rivers are pleasant, and of course trees.
A waterfall, or if that’s not possible, a fountain
rising and falling.
A person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem.
When the woman turned I could not answer her face.
Her beauty and her embarrassment struggled together, and
neither could win.
She smiled and I smiled. What kind of nonsense is this?
Everybody needs a job.
Yes, a person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem.
But first we must watch her as she stares down at her labor,
which is dull enough.
She is washing the tops of the airport ashtrays, as big as
hubcaps, with a blue rag.
Her small hands turn the metal, scrubbing and rinsing.
She does not work slowly, nor quickly, like a river.
Her dark hair is like the wing of a bird.
I don’t doubt for a moment that she loves her life.
And I want to rise up from the crust and the slop
and fly down to the river.
This probably won’t happen.
But maybe it will.
If the world were only pain and logic, who would want it?
Of course, it isn’t.
Neither do I mean anything miraculous, but only
the light that can shine out of a life. I mean
the way she unfolded and refolded the blue cloth,
The way her smile was only for my sake; I mean
the way this poem is filled with trees, and birds.