Honeymoon sonnet

Honeymoon epiphany

Epiphanies

We come now to the winter of our years
(Where did the autumn with its pleasures go?)
Our roof will all too soon be cloaked with snow,
So, come, let’s stoke our fire against the fears.

It seems another life ago, my dear,
That full of grace you pilgrim sat aglow
Enkindled so this prodigal would know
That grace was free and grace was very near.

Midsummer’s eve brought more epiphanies
Of spotless bride adorned, redeemed, in white,
Too ill for customary liberties,
So wan, yet still for these sore eyes a sight.
Then! Over Lake Champlain the full moon sees
A railway sleeper car rock through the night.


(2013)

Notes:

When love is good and it lasts, it can be tempting to idealize its beginnings.

But, the very first time I saw my wife, she was glowing. I kid you not. Sitting in the second row of a darkened auditorium listening to the Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, there she was — surrounded by a golden aura.

At the time, I was a reporter for a small suburban weekly paper, and was there on assignment. I had a camera, but was so befuddled I failed to get the shot. (Of the Glowing Girl, that is.) You might argue I was imagining things, but I don’t think so. I’m not given to visions nor hallucinations. I’ve never witnessed anything like it before or since.

I kept my eye on her while I got my story. But at the end of the program, she went right up to the speaker. I figured she must be with the group of important people who had accompanied him from Washington, D.C.

So, I put The Glowing Girl out of mind and tried to forget about her.

Fortunately for me, she turned up again a couple of weeks later at church. It turns out she was a friend of a friend, who introduced us and immediately left us alone. I didn’t let her get away a second time.

I think the whole experience was a special gift for a fellow a bit slow on the uptake, who needed a sign to notice a good thing right under my nose.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

We were married three years later at Midsummer. She was sick and only made it through the festivities with the help of cold medicine. The next morning we flew out of town to New York, and the very next night, took an overnight train to Montreal.

I’ve been a fan of railway travel ever since.

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“Poetry saved my life.”

Vendela Vida,
Vendela Vida

You hear it said: “Poetry saved my life.” There are books with that in the title.

I’ve said it myself.

It’s usually meant figuratively. When I’ve said it, I know I meant it figuratively.

But when author Vendela Vida says it, she means it literally.

As the novelist told NPR Fresh Air host Terri Gross on June 30, 2015, she owes her life to poetry.

Literally.

During the course of the interview, Gross asked Vida about her novel, “And Now You Can Go,” in which a woman is confronted by a man with a gun intent on suicide.

And he because he doesn’t want to die alone, he poses a mortal threat to the woman.

In the novel, a young woman is walking through a park in Manhattan, when a man calls out to her using the word “ma’am,” and she turns around.

The man is suicidal and has a gun. And, he doesn’t want to die alone. The woman is terrified, and in her desperation to find a reason to give him to go on living, she tells him about her love for books.

Interviewer Gross is skeptical. As Gross says, “she does it by trying to convince him that there’s, like, great poems and fiction out there, and I’m thinking, like, are you kidding?”

Well, it just so happens that this vignette in Vida’s novel is based on an actual event in her own life.  As she told Gross, “I think the first 10 pages, are based on something that happened to me when I was 21 years old and I was studying at Columbia, and I decided to go for a walk one December day in Riverside Park. I think it was around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and I was approached – like the protagonist in the book – by a man who didn’t want to die alone, and he had a gun.”

What Vida told Gross next is so good I want to quote her directly.

“And so I started saying to him, you know, there’s so much great stuff out there,” said Vida. “There’s poetry. You know, I sounded like some deranged schoolteacher at this point, and I had recently been reading the work of Mark Strand, the poet, and so I started just reciting some of his verses to this man.

“I started just, you know, the beginning of one poem, the ending of another – anything. I said, let’s go to the bookstore and let’s go look at some work by Mark Strand. It was the craziest thing. You know, I didn’t know what I was saying even, but I saw some kind of flash of interest or recognition in this man’s eyes, and he said, OK, let’s go to the bookstore.

“And so we started walking up to Broadway Street. And when, you know, as we were getting near, he said, you know, he said, I’ve made a terrible mistake. I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry, and he put his gun away, and he ran.”

When Gross heard the explanation, she was apologetic for suggesting that the scene in the novel was unbelievable.

“Oh, there’s no need to apologize, Terri,” said Vida. “No, it seems – it is – it was very bizarre, and, you know, I think it is a very unlikely situation. It does seem like a very, like, writerly dream to think that poetry can save someone’s life, but in my case, you know, it literally did.”

I love that story.

I also love the fact that Vida contacted poet Mark Strand and told his the story.

Strand served a term as the U.S. Poet Laureate in 1990-91, and it turned out was delighted by Vida’s story.

And who wouldn’t?

Here was a poet … a poet who had been honored with the highest honor his country could bestow … and finally, he had some assurance that he had made a difference in someone’s life.

His poetry had actually SAVED a life. Maybe two.

We poets go through life playing a game of Marco Polo. You know, the swimming pool game. We poets are perpetually coming to the surface and hollering “Marco!”

Whenever we hear a “Polo” in reply we are surprised and gratified.

In this case, Mark Strand heard a resounding “POLO!” from Vida.

Poetry has saved my life in figurative ways.

Poetry has allowed me to turn heartbreak, grief, despair, and tragedy into small bouquets of beauty.

If that’s “saving my life,” great. I’ll take that.