The wheel turns once again to this:
the image of your going
that appalling, horrid yesterday.
Old wounds stir beneath their scars
memories of anguish, fear, and disarray–
the sudden darkness
of your life’s closing parenthesis.
Yet anniversaries are not required
for our in memoriam—
let those who think so
take their yearly flowers to your grave.
They’ll soon forget again. They do not know
the way you visit constantly
as earth, the air, the water, …fire…
as reminding, unseen amulet,
as the in-dwelling, the abruptly
disappearing dream at dawn,
the little pause over a cup at noon,
the lengthening shadow on the lawn—
in the gut-pull of gravity,
split-second, as each sinking sun is set.
August is, for me, the cruellest month. It was in August, 2010, that my soulmate and
domestic partner of 43 years died suddenly of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. My life was radically
changed. I don’t quite know how to look forward, and am still trying to re-imagine the universe.
We were newly retired teachers–one in mathematics and one in the arts–had just bought a home in New Hampshire midway between the mountains and the sea, were in good health and looking forward to many new, good things when, as they say, it hit the fan. I learned that grief is very much like fear–it gets you right in the gut. And so I proceeded to develop a cancerous tumor, right in the gut, the mind-body connection patently obvious. Surgery, a refusal of chemo and a good health regimen have returned a semblance of sanity to this big old houseful of me, my big, old dog, and my two old cats.
Memory has a way of causing one to relive traumatic experiences as anniversaries come around. So I give myself a more gentle time in August.
I plan to keep up the momentum of my weekly poem posting, but for this month I think I will re-post a few things from my archives.
One of the things my beloved friend had been planning to do was to help me to try and publish some of the many hundreds of poems I’ve written over the years…..and to not be such an Emily Dickinson about it. I always replied that poetry really has no marketability, and my work, especially, doesn’t exactly fit what is popular today, so why bother?
The adventure of this blog has been a good thing for me; I deeply appreciate and thank everyone who simply reads it, and blow a kiss to my faithful ‘liking” and commenting friends.
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
Sometimes I don’t write poetry, but just ponder, in writing, why I—or anyone—ever writes poetry at all. What qualifies as poetry anyway? Strong emotion? Rhythm and rhyme? Some persons call themselves poets, and some do not. Maybe every child is a poet, only some keep it up, into adulthood.
Some poets just want their work to exist for itself, and prefer to keep personality out of the public eye. Others are looking for love and attention, or just to get something off their chest. Poetry can be a vocation and/or a profession. Emily Dickinson eschewed publication; Mary Oliver thrives on popular success.
There is a whole tradition of those who lived their lives as poets in the past—a tradition of poetry as craft, or prosody. It records, to the present day, many changes of sensibility and taste, and is wonderful study for word lovers.
The famous poet W.H. Auden was once asked what advice he would give a young person who wished to become a poet. Auden replied that he would ask the young person why he or she wanted to write poetry. If the answer was “because I have something important to say,” Auden would conclude that there was no hope for that young person as a poet. If, on the other hand, the answer was something like “because I like to hang around words and overhear them talking to one another,” then the young person was at least interested in a fundamental part of the poetic process and there was hope for him or her.
This blog is likely to be, as its author’s private journal has been for some time now, about growing old and loving serious books in a surrounding culture that often seems alien to these predicaments. However, since one cannot predict the happenings of any future day, a log of life’s journey is necessarily a work in progress and surprise. As my friend Zoe would ask, whiningly: “How do I know what I think ’til I see what I say?” My other little old lady friends, Alma and Billie, would just nod wisely and think about something pleasant to add, most likely a non sequitur: