Rocking Chair - Merna Dyer Skinner

Ever so slightly, I press one foot upon the floor
            setting my rocker in motion
back and forth
            forward and back.
Hardwood floorboards creak their greeting.

Shaped like a human body at rest,
            the rocking chair shores up arms, supports legs,
cradles my spine ̶ ̶
            only my neck and head bend and release
imperceptibly to the rhythm.

My gaze unfocused, breath slow and subtle
.           as if the chair breathes for me.
My mind, like a fishing line,
            casts forward, seeking what?
Inspiration? Reprieve?

How clever of Thonet to reject wood’s rigidity,
            unravel a way to bend beech — to mimic
a body’s curvature.
            Water, heat, force,
time — the furniture maker’s agents
            of transformation.

Renoir, with charcoal-stained fingers, sketches such a chair
            — curlicues swirling beneath a reclining woman,
fully clothed, corset-tight.
            Surely she needs the chair
to help her breathe. In repose, her eyes, like mine,
            dreamy, quiet.

Science tells us motion is therapy —
            how many psychologists have replaced their couches
with rocking chairs? Recalcitrant patients tip themselves
            forward and back
back and forth —
            feel no judgment

in arms’ smooth curves, find strength
            in stretchers beneath their buttocks,
behind their backs, untangle
            long-held secrets of shame
 or, simply let their gaze ease —
            blur surrounding walls, windows —

breathe in and out —
            and in their rocking, create
a gentle stir of air — awaken,
            their subconscious to words
waiting.

So, let us thank the timber, sawed and sanded
            into spindles and splats, rockers and rails —
let us praise cherry and birch, steamed and bent —
            applaud the stacks of cane, soaked and stripped,
woven thick into seats of thatch —
            the rocking chair will bear any weight we bring.

Merna Dyer Skinner is a poet and photographer, and the eighth-generation granddaughter of Quaker martyr Mary Barrett Dyer. Years after grad school in Boston’s Back Bay, Merna learned that she often passed the spot where Mary was hanged in 1660. For thirty years Merna has worked as a communications and media consultant, and in 2013 she began writing poetry while attending UCLA’s Writers Extension program. Her chapbook, A Brief History of Two Aprons, was published in 2016 by Finishing Line Press. Her poems have appeared in a few literary journals and two anthologies. She is an alumna of the Kenyon Review Poetry Workshop, Tupelo Press Workshop, and Community of Writers. As a child, Merna and her parents circumnavigated the Eastern U.S., boating from Lake Michigan to Lake Erie. Since then, Merna has lived in six U.S. states and traveled to five continents. She calls Portland, OR home, for now.