Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts

Friday, November 1, 2013

(literary) companions in grief

It will come as no shock to those of you who know me well that I find solace in literature. My real-life friends are wonderful, and I have praised you here on these virtual pages, but many of my oldest and most intimate friends are met on the printed page. In this post, I'd like to introduce you to some of them.

Anne Bradstreet was a Puritan and a poet in the early seventeenth-century Massachusetts Bay Colony. If you picked up a memorial card at Adam's funeral, you saw her poem "To My Dear and Loving Husband," the last two lines of which have been with me lately:


Then while we live in love, let's so persever,

That when we live no more, we may live ever.

The above is, by far, my favorite, but Bradstreet has other poems that model faith amidst sorrow.


Where Bradstreet is excellent for comfort, Anna Akhmatova, an early twentieth-century Russian poet, is excellent for lamentation. Her cycle of poems, Реквием [Requiem], lays bare the soul's anguish at separation and loss. Especially apt is her description of the out-of-bodiness of grief:

                      
III
Нет, это не я, это кто-то другой страдает.
Я бы так не могла, а то, что случилось,
Пусть черные сукна покроют,
И пусть унесут фонари.
                                   Ночь.

3.

No it is not I, someone else is suffering.
I could not have borne it otherwise, all that’s happening,
Let them grant to it a dark covering,
And let them take away the glittering......
                                                            Night.

This cycle of poems is on the syllabus for my world literature course, and teaching it is always bittersweet for me because it puts me through the ringer, while the students often don't appreciate its power.


Frederico Garcia Lorca's Llanto por Ignacio Sanchez Mejias [Lament for...] is also on the syllabus for that course, and the last time I taught it, in SP 2013, a couple of the students were deeply affected by this cycle of poems. They said that Lorca was spot on in his description of the process of grief. I didn't know it then, but now I know that they were totally right. Throughout the Llanto, Lorca, an early twentieth-century Spanish poet, captures the sense of time having stopped by building his poems around repeated phrases and parallel structure. 


The line from Lorca's Llanto that has been with me lately is the repeated phrase from the fourth poem: no te conoce, no te conoce, no te conoce. Somewhere (apologies that I can't remember where) I stumbled upon the insight that immediately upon the death of one's spouse, one is no longer the person one had been. I am increasingly aware that this new world, in which my new self lives, does not know Adam. 


Recently, a couple of kindred spirits have sent me poems with whom I'm starting make friends. One of these is Norwegian poet Karin Boye's "Din värme" ["Your Warmth"]. Another is "Life After Death" by Laura Gilpin, a twentieth-century American poet who reminds us


How the living go on living

and how the dead go on living with them
....
so that nothing is wasted in nature 
or in love.

Indeed, love is never wasted, even when it is lost. 



Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Adam

Dear you,
These are some of the poems I wrote in April 2010 as part of the National Poetry Writing Month challenge. Thanks for the inspiration. Merry Christmas ! 
Love, 
me

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Meeting You
I stand there stickily seething, contemplating
my brand new Mr. Pib perfume and body lotion.
You introduce yourself, offering help.
Gratefully, I accept. A decade later, I am still grateful
to a child and a can of soda on a camping trip.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I knew

I knew that you
would share my children
the moment I saw you
rescuing a friend's
child from a dreaded
splinter with
patience and a
pocket knife.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Talking to You


Your eyebrows say so
much, just by
going like this:
/\
Always asking me
the question of
the moment.

The alarm goes off
/\
"I slept great. You?"

You open the bathroom door
/\
"I'll be done in just a sec."

The kids race between us,
trailing their argument
like a kite.
/\
"They've been like this
since lunch. It must have
been something in the
peanut butter."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

evidence they leave behind

socks on the sofa
pencils on the table
underwear under the chair
science experiments in the corner
crumbs on the tile
hugs in the morning
mischievous smiles

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Country City Mouse

If only,
if only you had chosen me
if only...
you would not
end each day with dirt under your nails
you would not
spend precious hours commuting to your life
you would not
have to sweep the yard back out of the kitchen everyday
you would have
enough time for art, for poetry, for music
for unhurried creation and uninterrupted appreciation
If only you had chosen me,
had stayed on the coast in the capital...
If only!

All of that might be true
if only I had chosen you.
I would wear heels and suits
instead of slippers and sweats.

I'd plant in neat balcony pots
instead of sprawling yard plots.

With you, though, I would not
live in the harmony of seasonal time,
appreciating super starry nights
and putting up fruit in its prime.

If only I had chosen you,
would I value you? Or -
would I ache for this
the way I ache for you now?

You might have led me around the world
following fulfilling work,
but you would never have given me these
children, who are products of this place.

You would never have shown me this path.
I did not choose you. I chose this, and
I am finished with 'if only'

for now...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We Two

Always one step beyond,
you ground me
keeping me from
blowing in the wind.

Always patient,
you put up with
my waffling
in my decisions.

Some days,
I drive you crazy,
but where there is tolerance
there is love.

Friday, April 30, 2010

evidence they leave behind

Read Write Poem's NaPoWriMo # 30 Fare thee well

evidence they leave behind

socks on the sofa
pencils on the table
underwear under the chair
science experiments in the corner
crumbs on the tile
hugs in the morning
mischievous smiles

Thursday, April 29, 2010

to my uncle

Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo #29

to my uncle

cinnamon
will always be the smell
of joy and love
because of your baking

aggravation
will always be the game
I play with children
because of your marbles

I
will always be an organ donor
because someone gave you
a heart

you
live on
in me, darlin'

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I knew

Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo # 28 Intuition

I knew that you
would share my children
the moment I saw you
rescuing a friend's
child from a dreaded
splinter with
patience and a
pocket knife.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kolokolchiki

Read Write Poem's NaPoWriMo # 27 Acrostic

Kolokolchiki

Keep the bells ringing
over the town,
lifting up praise,
off'ring thanksgiving.
Keep the bells ringing
over the field.
Listen - the sound
chimes through the sky,
hopping on hilltops off
into the night.
Keep the bells ringing
into the day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Talking to You

Read Write Poem's NaPoWriMo #25 first things's first

Talking to You

Your eyebrows say so
much, just by
going like this:
/\
Always asking me
the question of
the moment.

The alarm goes off
/\
"I slept great. You?"

You open the bathroom door
/\
"I'll be done in just a sec."

The kids race between us,
trailing their argument
like a kite.
/\
"They've been like this
since lunch. It must have
been something in the
peanut butter."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

epigram 1

Read Write Poem's NaPoWriMo # 24 find a phrase

epigram 1

you can't
go home again
because
home rides along
wherever you go

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Fork

Read Write Poem's NaPoWriMo #23 Odd Couple

The Fork

I am that restaurant, that one
where people go to do and to be
seen doing in the poshest of places.
I contain them:
the genuine adulterous lovers
the legitimate deceitful businessmen.
Oh, the things I could say
about who comes alone
about who meets whom
about who leaves how.
I am that restaurant.

I am that table, the one
in the corner, where people
have their most private
public events.
I cover them:
the crossed fingers of the crooked promise
the wandering fingers of the indecent proposal
the occasional kiss.
Oh, the things I could say
about who meets here behind the greenery
about what one man tells three different people
on three different days
I am that table.

I am the fork, the one
that these lovers and doers use
to bring the food into their bodies.
They choose the restaurant,
they choose the table,
but me they just accept without noticing.
But I notice.
I touch their tongues,
I feel their lips,
I resist their teeth.
I taste the tang of their lies.
I know the sweetness of the truth.
I know who should be here and who should not,
who is genuine and who is false.
Oh, the things I could say,
about young women's innocent duplicity
about men's sincere infidelity
about entreprenurial altruism
about restrained anger
and, occasionally, about true love.
I am that fork.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

in the kitchen

Read Write Poem's NaPoWriMo #22 a wordle


in the kitchen

saffron and pepper reverberate,
tappingtapping to open the door
their dizzyfierceness seduces
and I succumb
liberally sprinkling the spice and
a squall of sent wafts up
enticing the tongue

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Poetic Apprehension

Read Write Poem's NaPoWriMo # 21 Perfection

Poetic Apprehension

Perfection
is impossible at
the rate of one
per day.

But no one
expects it
anyway.

Revision
and revision
and time
and some more revision
that will bring perfection.

Keep dreaming.

Perfection is
ever unattainable,
only, like infinity,
approachable.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Boast of Me

Read Write Poem's NaPoWriMo #20 http://readwritepoem.org/blog/2010/04/20/napowrimo-prompt-20-the-hero-poem/


A Boast of Me

I, Kate, am the daughter descended of myriad marvelous mothers
of she whose picture-painting needle never pauses
of she whose fleet feet fly hither and yon
of she who brewed the dandelion wine.

The many of America mingle in my blood
Irish and Dutch, Mohawk and German.
I am a weaver of cultures, reaching across the chasm
and making of myself a bridge for my comrades to cross.


Notes: Because I need to believe in myself more and be my own hero, I chose to write an Anglo-Saxon style boast in response to this prompt. You should write one, too.

Friday, April 16, 2010

coconut lotion

Read Write Poem's NaPoWriMo #16 What is that smell?

the smell of coconut
lotion eclipses all else
my feet remember scorching sand
my eyes remember glaring sun
my ears remember wheeling gulls
my tongue remembers salty brine
I return to childhood


Notes: I wish I could still find sunscreen that has that smell. This poem came without punctuation. What do you think? Is the repetition of remember too much?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spinach Haiku

NaPoWriMo #15

Spinach Haiku

so long have I
longed for your spring return
to my bowl, spinach


Note: An increased commitment to eating locally and in season meant that I wasn't purchasing greens in the grocery store through the winter. My brief sojourn in Brazil was a nice salad interlude, but for the last month or so, I have been craving a giant bowl of spinach salad, and I finally got it thanks to Bluebird Farm and Sustainable Greens.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Making Friends

NaPoWriMo # 14

Making Friends

We cut a complicated dance:
I bare an ankle,
you a wrist,
then a knee,
and an elbow.

We don't quite get
to hips and shoulders-
today that would be
too much.

We spiral together
and back away,
passing face to face
and back to back.

We leave the dance floor
still wanting more.
Ready
for next time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ducks fly north

Read Write Poem #12 Secret Codes

Ducks fly north
carrying
the secrets of spring
under their wings.

Geese cry greeting
happy
to be meeting
their summertime friends.

Notes: Today's prompt called for secret code, which reminded me of a story a fellow expat had told me when we were studying in Moscow: Years earlier, her parents had visited the USSR and wanted to send themselves a postcard. Not knowing what to say to themselves, they just wrote "Ducks fly north." The postcard arrived months later with all manner of stamps and notations in Russian all over the back. Their theory is that the censors had to make sure it wasn't super secret spy code before it passed through the Iron Curtain to the free world.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Country City Mouse

Read Write Poem's NaPoWriMo #11 The Thing You Didn't Choose

Country City Mouse

If only,
if only you had chosen me
if only...
you would not
end each day with dirt under your nails
you would not
spend precious hours commuting to your life
you would not
have to sweep the yard back out of the kitchen everyday
you would have
enough time for art, for poetry, for music
for unhurried creation and uninterrupted appreciation
If only you had chosen me,
had stayed on the coast in the capital...
If only!

All of that might be true
if only I had chosen you.
I would wear heels and suits
instead of slippers and sweats.

I'd plant in neat balcony pots
instead of sprawling yard plots.

With you, though, I would not
live in the harmony of seasonal time,
appreciating super starry nights
and putting up fruit in its prime.

If only I had chosen you,
would I value you? Or -
would I ache for this
the way I ache for you now?

You might have led me around the world
following fulfilling work,
but you would never have given me these
children, who are products of this place.

You would never have shown me this path.
I did not choose you. I chose this, and
I am finished with 'if only'

for now...

Notes: I like where this poem took me. It is something that rolls around in my head quite a lot now as I stand at another decision-required intersection. I would like to keep working on the style in the second half of the poem, bringing in more rhyme and meter to differentiate it from the voice of the first half of the poem. We'll see.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Preparation for Celebration

Read Write Poem's NaPrWriMo #10 Celebration

Disclaimer - this is very definitely just a draft.

Preparation for Celebration

For forty days and forty nights,
we ate no eggs - no omlettes,
no french toast, no pancakes.

To be ready for the Feast of Easter
with paskha and kulikh, which
we have been eating for a week.

Easter week has come to an end,
but the chickens continue to lay,
and we return to omlettes,
french toast and pancakes.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Questions I Could Never Ask My Hostess

Read Write Poem's NaPoWriMo #9 Your Mission

Questions I Could Never Ask My Hostess

I prop the electric torch against the pail
where I will stow the paper
when I'm done.
(I hope the batteries will survive
nightly trips to this necessary)
The outhouse is one of a million small inconveniences
on the fringe of a village in the middle of Siberia.

What must it be like in the winter-
when the bruising wind grabs the door out of your hands
and with all your might you lever it closed
before the snow flies onto the rug?
when the drifts on the path make you limp to the loo?
when the sun shines so little and the chimney puffs so much?

Lost in thought, I stumble, startling myself and the chickens.
Exhausted by your way of life, I dream of home's conveniences.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

cookie haiku

NaPoWriMo day 8

once again
meringue cookie clouds collapse
failure *sigh*


Notes: This one is not written to the prompt for today.