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Mimi White

Seven Nonagons

August 7, 2021

A day so round, a day so happy.

Rain fell hard; I made soup.

Bluebirds lit from grass to branch, then back again.

I walked to the harbor to watch the great blue heron fish for minnows.

I set the table with linen napkins and wild flowers.

Once, and for many years, I had a great love.

I set the table as a wife not a widow.

Happiness came and went.

August 16, 2021

Midlake Island

A day so happy.

The air was clean again, smoke from the west gone.

Being alone did not frighten me.

I swam to the sun. I swam to the moon.

There was no time.

Stars fell from the sky.

A train whistle entered my dreams.

The dog curled up beside me.

My book grew heavy and disappeared.

September 7, 2021

Newton, Mass

A day so happy.

Rosh Hashanah arrived at dusk.

We drove through the waning light to my daughter’s friend’s home.

The two-family houses had second floor porches framed by leafy trees.

I imagined living closer to the sky.

In a long-ago time, when my mother was dying, we had words.

She returned during services this year in her blue burial dress.

The book of life was open and I wanted in:

I meant nothing by them, I said to her. I only wanted you to live.

September 19, 2021

Rye, NH

Fog hid chirping sparrows.

A hawk swooped in and caught one.

I picked up my life where it had left off.

I practiced yoga by the open window.

I brought canning jars to the dump and left them in the swap shop.

I wrote a poem about a woman leaving on a red motorcycle,

A goldfish in a glass bowl her only cargo.

Leaving looked easy.

At the farm I bought honey from the bee man and walked home happy.

October 11, 2021

Rye, NH and Salisbury, Ma.

A day so happy.

My sister was making bourride for supper and I was invited.

I walked the dog and picked the last of the apples.

I stepped carefully around the fallen fruit alive with drunken bees.

The kale was more ornamental than edible.

I forgot about time and I had no time for troubles.

At day’s end, I drove south through a lavender sky.

The bourride did not disappoint;

the surprise of tiny mussels in my spoon.

November 2, 20

Rye, NH

The moon travelled across the sky with the little dipper.

Some days I can manage a world without us.

Would the birds miss me?

Old orchards, stone walls, a midden at the edge of the woods

Our markings mapped for anyone to find.

At the harbor I watched minnows swim in and out of a fish skull.

They swam in a zigzag formation

Like the murmurations of starlings.

April 12, 2022

Rye, NH

For a long time light rain fell.

It made the sound of my name;

I sat on my green bench and said hello to the sky.

I knew I was not who I had once been.

My hellebore opened just enough

Its blushed petals shone,

Its leathery leaves the color of fall.

I could not imagine living like this:

Forever content in the rain.


Nonagon is a nine-sided figure and seemed perfect for these little pieces of writing. I thank Kathleen Clancy for suggesting it as the “form” I was writing. When my friend John Perrault recited Milosz’ poem The Gift I knew I had a project ahead of me. We were outside and for a few brief weeks we thought we were done with this virus, but we were wrong. It was the second year of Covid and we were still very much in lock down. I was miserable. I could not see my kids. My husband had died three years prior. My dog Scout, walks to Rye Harbor, and these strange little nine lines kept me going, kept me company.

The first line of The Gift is: A day so happy. My challenge to myself was to write a nine line “poem” ( tried not to think of them as poems) each jotting beginning with that first line. I set about to become happy. I figured if I wrote that line day after day, always in a small notebook while I sat on my green garden bench at sunrise ( bundled up and also warmed by a cup of hot tea) happiness would materialize.

I kept at this practice for two years or so when it started to slow down. I still grab the tea and a notebook and sit on the bench more as an act of meditation. Once in a while I scribble down a nonagon. I am happier than when I started the practice. But I sometimes wonder if I will ever be as happy as I had been for many years—before Steve died and before the virus stole language… I felt stripped by its relentless nature.

The fact that some of these little jottings resemble poems is a miracle. I needed to start without poetry in mind. Where I ended up did not really matter. Yes, I was looking for a little happiness. And I was trying to find a new language for this new world. These are still a little ragged and a few are 8 lines…so be it...

They are what they are. For me they were a new way to put words together, to think and to go on.

- Mimi White


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