First Gestures by Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Among the first we learn is good-bye,
your tiny wrist between Dad’s forefinger
and thumb forced to wave bye-bye to Mom,
whose hand sails brightly behind a windshield.
Then it’s done to make us follow:
in a crowded mall, a woman waves, “Bye,
we’re leaving,” and her son stands firm
sobbing, until at last he runs after her,
among shoppers drifting like sharks
who must drag their great hulks
underwater, even in sleep, or drown.

Living, we cover vast territories;
imagine your life drawn on a map—
a scribble on the town where you grew up,
each bus trip traced between school
and home, or a clean line across the sea
to a place you flew once. Think of the time
and things we accumulate, all the while growing
more conscious of losing and leaving. Aging,
our bodies collect wrinkles and scars
for each place the world would not give
under our weight. Our thoughts get laced
with strange aches, sweet as the final chord
that hangs in a guitar’s blond torso.

Think how a particular ridge of hills
from a summer of your childhood grows
in significance, or one hour of light–
late afternoon, say, when thick sun flings
the shadow of Virginia creeper vines
across the wall of a tiny, white room
where a girl makes love for the first time.
Its leaves tremble like small hands
against the screen while she weeps
in the arms of her bewildered lover.
She’s too young to see that as we gather
losses, we may also grow in love;
as in passion, the body shudders
and clutches what it must release.

From: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/first-gestures

Date: 1998

By: Julia Spicher Kasdorf (1962- )

2 Comments to “First Gestures by Julia Spicher Kasdorf”

  1. I was ten years old when this was written. And it feels so bizarre and eery to know that. Like it makes me juxtapose this piece and read it as myself now, but also as myself as ten years old.

    “the body shudders and clutches what it must release.” my interpretation might be a little out of context, but I feel that’s what I must do with parts of my past. I loved the nostalgia and the feeling of going back this has given me.

    Thanks 🙏

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