Many people will tell you—with glasses on the ends of their noses and black scarves wrapped loosely about their necks—that center stage is the strongest place for any actor to stand.


I disagree.


Once an actor has arrived at center, she has arrived.


When she stands just outside of center, she is still on a journey.


This poem, as well as the two that will follow, are about the journey: those places that surround the destination, or have not yet reached the full understanding or completion of a thing . . . those places or thoughts or moments that come close to center . . . but do not quite touch it.


Woman Waking, by Jill Szoo Wilson


She lifted her hands toward the sky—

White and heavy with snow-laden clouds—

And stretched all the way through

From the tips of her fingers

To the delicate curves of her ankles:

A sound flew and then fell from her lips.


It was a sigh of awake, a dream of asleep—

Her breath still deep but rising to the surface—

She could see the wrinkles of her pillow

Branded into her face, holding on

Until they too had to fall from her cheeks

And rise, like steam from a cup of coffee.


The birds outside her window sang—

Songs of newness, routines and plans—

And then they were muted by the clamor

Of coffee beans bursting with fragrance

And tones more lively than even the birds

Could muster through beaks that sip only water.


She sat at her table wearing pajamas—

White cotton speckled with flowers of pink—

And she touched the tip of her mug

To lips that had not yet spoken into the day

But made only the sound of awake

And she swallowed the warmth as she thought.


Her thinking became clear and her eyes became bright—

Brightened like snow when the sun begins to shine—

A plan began to spin and to whir

Like the cogs in a machine newly oiled,

The sound of movement—of forward—

And she hopped on the sound like a wave.


Into the day she rode on an idea with wings—

The feathers were big like those of an angel—

Her hair blew backward and also to the sides

Into air that felt the way water feels

When at first the faucet cascades

Before the heat of hot has time to warm.


She was not sure where she was going—

The going was more important than the where—

Beating inside her was a heart

Burning inside was a feeling

Rising inside was a hope that

Waking was only the beginning.


copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

(Photo credit: Heiko Müller, Standing Cat In A Sheepcote.