“And beyond them a stretch of open country / That strives into the sea.”

Ashley McHugh*, a poet and friend, directed my attention to this poem, “A Figure of Plain Force,” by Michael Heffernan (to be more precise, she pointed out the next poem on the page, but I was drawn to the first poem).

Grass by C.R. Oliver

In “A Figure of Plain Force,” the speaker considers “you,” a person turned into an open door in the early morning. We aren’t given anything about their relationship, or even the person’s gender, but I couldn’t help imagining the speaker as a child remembering his mother readying herself to meet the day. She might work on “nothing of consequence,” or perhaps she’ll fall into a whirl of activity to finish a task she’d left undone.

As you’ll note from the line I pulled for the title, the location is somewhere near the ocean, but when I read these lines:

In this condition you pretend to lean
Solidly into the open while you gather
The winds about you by deliberate grace
Turning you into a figure of plain force,
Careful and candid, never in a dither,
Given to nothing noisome or unclean.

I can’t help but think of a pioneer woman looking out onto a sea of prairie grass, formidable in her determination.

What’s your reaction to the poem?

*By the way, you should check out Ashley’s glorious first book, Into These Knots.