Keeping Up with the Angelous
A poetic response to Mother’s Day
My wife Kate gets at least three poems a year on special occasions, but one occasion was so special that I surprised her with an entire book.
In 2017, to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, I wrote and had privately printed a book of love poetry simply titled 25. During the (short) time that I wrote that book, I called upon our history together, assembling remembered fragments from bygone eras into poems with coherent patterns of imagery that supported the book’s theme of appreciation and love.
Since then, I’ve returned to our love story as a topic worth exploring in poems the same way that certain memoirists – one thinks of Frank McCourt, Mary Karr, or Maya Angelou – return to their life’s struggles to find content for multiple memoirs (McCourt and Karr wrote three each, while Angelou wrote seven!). Kate loves these poems, many of them about how we met in London in the 1980s, so for years now I have brazenly published my private adorations on Facebook, and sometimes in my newsletters. If George Harrison and Eric Clapton could write five or more famous love songs about the same woman (Patti Boyd), then I figure I can fill and share a book or two with poems about Kate.
If you are interested, find an example here":
The We That We Are – A Poem for Kate on Mother’s Day
When was the start of the “we” that we are?
I’d like to identify that moment
and lock it in my heart, but is it mine alone to name?
Is its identity social, like the hands of the new
bride and groom that will not unclasp?
Or is it held still and singular, like a poet’s image?
Your bright eyes widened wider than wide
when you first entered our shared room to find me there.
That London home, respite from a semester of perpetual storms,
was our crucible, our love lab full of experiments,
glances, your beaming smiles, and my gentle questions
standing in for microscopes and beakers.
Cohabitating tourists fated at first sight,
we sightsaw tenderness hesitatingly,
like brickbound discoverers of a revealed garden,
wondering how it could be so.
Did the we that we are start then?
Did our first parting prove us unpartable?
Did the we that we are start the moment of our first phone call,
your doe-eyed enchantment proving even stronger stateside?
We addressed each other from our parents’ homes,
like the teenagers that we never were together,
the unhurried song of your soft American voice
just as hushed and melodic as I remembered it.
Would we find each other again?
A spark seeks kindle, as I sought you.
Did the we that we are start then?
Did the we that we are start at our reunion,
our first fierce American embrace?
Did we young lovers consolidate into one when
we crossed state lines in my Checker Marathon,
or when I brought you to the cabin in the woods
that my grandmother had bought in 1955 for $1,500?
I promised you rustic, but you expected running water,
and pointedly pouted when I pointed out the outhouse.
Did we start in DC, in Pennsylvania, in New Jersey, or in Ohio?
Did we really start being us in a Snoqualmie pup tent?
In your Elmhurst bachelorette pad?
Everywhere I looked for you, I found you,
especially every time I closed my eyes.
You, you brought the same unalterable eyes,
as deep as my dreams for us, to every rendezvous.
Those same eyes cried tears of joy
in three maternity rooms,
a mother working even harder than the midwives.
Today no Twitter feed distracts us
from the feasts you feed us.
Your face, this man’s joy and bliss,
a private open book to my hungry gaze,
is my preferred undistanced social medium.
I remember once on our rainy academic vacation,
our genesis, asking if you would like to follow me
into a Hampstead Haverstock Hill Road shop
that sold clothes only for babies and infants.
We had been drawn to the window,
for in our London, window shopping
was the only shopping we could afford to do.
You demurred, saying that I could go in if I wanted,
that you would wait for me outside.
You were not ready to enter that world
of hopeful imagination, or not yet with me.
Being so preliminary, the possibilities
entertained there seemed almost cruel.
As is my wont, I smiled and stayed with you.
In my mind’s eye I return to that storefront,
taking in the primary color wools and cottons
that would be worn for so short a time.
I also take in your shop window reflection,
wondering then about a future together
that it has been my foremost joy to enact with you.
The image travels with me still,
(until now) private, and ever-present,
like a locked, heart-shaped locket.
On Hampstead Heath, your reflected
self shimmers like a visiting angel.
Our eyes meet (my favorite place to meet),
and 35 years later I ask myself again
if the we that we are started right then.
I so appreciate my new patrons on Patreon! Michael and Catlyn will both be receiving a weekly trivia contest from me, each of them filled with 31 questions and answers. New subscribers get bonuses for their first month, such as the VIDEO version of the Pub Quiz. If you would like to see what the video looks like, drop me a line so I can share the goods with you, as well. And thanks especially to the sustaining patrons (check out the team names!): The Original Vincibles, Quizimodo, The Outside Agitators, and Bono’s Pro Bono Oboe Bonobos. If you enjoy these distractions, poetic or prosaic, you should also thank them. Or better yet, join them on Patreon!
P.S. Find here three Pub Quiz questions from last week’s quiz:
World Charities. What is the largest charity worldwide, with total yearly revenue of over $4 billion?
Pop Culture – Music. What American musical duo from Columbus, Ohio produced the successful singles "Stressed Out" and "Ride" and thus produced the first album in history on which every track received at least a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America?
Sports. Starting with the letter C, what Major League Baseball stadium gives up the most home runs?