January 23 – “so many years
of intense partnership,”
Some poems call readers out onto vast realities; last Friday was like that, a day for attention during this contentious transition of my country’s political leadership. Some poems open into resonant, intimate love. That’s today’s “In Love.” Perhaps this Denise Levertov poem came to mind because I flew into JFK Saturday, braved Long Island’s expressways with their t00-tight turns matched by slightly-too-narrow lanes, to spend time with a lifelong soul friend, Sr. Consuela de Biase, csj. Connie has become frail, like the ancient poet in today’s poem. She misses nothing, I realized, but you have to lean in close to hear; worn with fatigue, she whispers, and pauses to breathe. We visited three times (c. 90 minutes, 25 minutes, and 4 or 5 when we said goodbye before I headed back to JFK early Sunday). I love it that the 40 mile drive on the parkway was wearing; it reminds me that those miles and our 3 conversations are of a piece with decades of mutual listening, the fabric of Connie’s life. Some hundreds of women and men, mostly using their cars or their phones, counted on Connie listening to their stories of joy and fear, anger and delight. I am one of them. With any luck at all, I’ll be back to her room before too long. Given Long Island traffic, perhaps I’ll try Uber instead of a rental.
Have a blest week.
p.s. This poem appeared on October 19, 2015. Best to read it a couple times, out loud with pauses.
Today’s Post “In Love”
Over gin and tonic (an unusual treat) the ancient poet
haltingly — not because mind and memory
falter, but because language, now,
weary from so many years
of intense partnership,
comes stiffly to her summons,
with unsure footing —
recounts, for the first time in my hearing, each step
of that graceful sarabande, her husband’s
last days, last minutes, fifteen years ago.
She files her belongings freestyle, jumbled
in plastic bags — poems, old letters, ribbons,
old socks, an empty picture frame;
but keeps her fifty years of marriage wrapped, flawless,
in something we sense and almost see —
diaphanous as those saris one can pass through a wedding ring.
Denise Levertov 1923 – 1997
Connie laughing, smiling, contemplative August 2006