When I came to his poem “Touch Me,” I had to pause. This poem seemed to be hitting some of same notes. Much deeper, but with little glimpses of the same melody.
The two poems are very different on the surface — mine is a sonnet, his is free verse. He makes different observations about nature.
But the season is the same — late summer. And there is something similar in the underlying emotion. Here’s his poem:
Touch Me –Stanley Kunitz
Summer is late, my heart. Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that’s late,
it is my song that’s flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only, ++++++++++++++ and it’s done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.
Late summer’s sun has baked the grass to brown.
The days grow shorter with each passing day,
Soon, autumn’s chill will make the leaves fall down.
All of this aching beauty will decay.
And yet I love the shadows’ slanting trace,
The once green grain gone golden in its rows,
And how I love the lines etched in your face.
It’s funny, as love ripens how it grows.
The number of our days we do not know.
No sleeper knows if he will ever wake.
So come, let’s join above, between, below.
My dear, let’s cause our fragile clay to quake.
Let us make love as if it’s our last go.
Let us embrace like dawn will never break.
NOTES: It’s not really late summer yet, but it feels like it. It has been hot and dry, giving us the sense of late August when July hasn’t even ended.
The seasons seen to come and go more quickly of late. Perhaps I’m paying closer attention. Perhaps I realize more summers now lie behind me than still ahead.
Something in the air caused me to pull this sonnet out of the vault today. I snapped the photo on my late afternoon walk.
The pasture is brown,
and snow has left the mountains.
But the sky. The sky!
NOTES: Late summer signs are coming early to the Pacific Northwest this year. This past winter we broke a 122 year record for rainfall in Seattle. We got 44.67 inches of rain from October through April. Which was the wettest such stretch since record-keeping began in 1895. (We rack up almost 9 inches in February alone.)
But not to worry. This is the Pacific Northwest. No matter how dry it gets this summer, we know that the rains will return in the fall and remain with us for what seems like forever. So we can relax and appreciate the beauty around us.
The wind and you played in my hair,
You lambent in the moon,
The night arranged as by design,
Afresh the breeze and warm our hands,
So lately introduced,
Traced so gently new found lands,
From tyranny aloosed.
While all around with fire and bang
Our freedom was proclaimed,
A nation’s liberty was meant,
To us, two hearts unchained.
NOTES: I celebrate the Fourth of July as a double holiday. I’m proud and happy to honor our exceptional America and call it home.
And, it also warms my heart to remember the night I discovered my role in an on-going love story.
My personal affection for July Fourth goes back to 1982, when a young couple snuck to the roof of the Calhoun Beach Club in Minneapolis to watch the fireworks. This perch, high above Lake Calhoun, offered a 360 degree view of the entire Twin Cities area. You could see several fireworks displays from there, both near and far away.
That day we lay upon the grass,
A luminescent green.
The sparks that arced from arm to arm
Across the space between.
Our bodies quickened by the sun,
The willow leaves aflush,
The sunlight sparkling on the lake,
Our blood bestirred to rush.
Up and down the parkway, flowers
Enticing with their blooms,
Our loveless winter ended there,
Emerging from our tombs.
For we had slept as sleepers sleep,
Unmindful of the world,
Astonishingly we awoke,
Much like a rose unfurled.
Notes: I have a theory that memorializing milestones in a relationship will fortify it to help it withstand the inevitable stresses and storms of life. Remembering and celebrating events in the early, first phase of a love story are especially powerful.
On July 3, 1982 I took a walk with a beautiful woman around that most beautiful of the Minneapolis lakes, Lake of the Isles. We had known each other less than two months. We sat down in the grass by the lagoon. And then this happened.
July 3 has been my own personal holiday ever since.