Behind Us The Way Grows Wider
Sheila Bender’s body of work over three decades is a life story told in poetry. Poets have called her work “windows of light,” “three square meals,” “comfortable as an old sweater and as welcome,” words that “gives form to what has no body,” and “places where we can rest.”
From Sheila Bender’s volume of new and collected poems 1980 to 2013:
You have refused to come to me when I have called you
or come joking in a fool’s chiming rhymes.
You have dropped phrases here and there
leaving me to find the puzzle they complete.
You have distracted me from living the way
others think I ought to.
You have ignited desire in me when boredom
was the companion I thought I preferred.
You have made me cry in public and you have
left me speechless in front of students.
You have come to me unbidden in the mail,
on bus placards and city steps, hooking
me and reeling me in until I flutter and gasp.
You have made me search you out
in books I’d never heard of.
You have made me a lover of frogs in ancient China,
a collector of words I like the sound of like antecubital.
You have widened my circle of friends to old
men in Chile and young girls in Greece.
You have made as foreigners those
closer to home who don’t understand the calling.
I have reminded you that I must earn a living,
I have asked you to wait so I can sleep,
rolling away from the pad and lighted pen.
I have turned my head because I was lazy,
watching television or reading Sunday’s Parade.
I have sometimes committed to organizations
hoping deadlines and databases would keep you away.
Yet there are no vows that can I break with you,
my fated life companion, you who sometimes comes
hidden under armor and sometimes naked in a waterfall,
who sometimes seems afraid of light yet is as agile
sighted as an eagle, who is unpluckable
as a shooting star but as harvested as pinion nuts,
ethereal as the ocean’s spindrift, muscular as its undertow.