Friday, April 8, 2011

Late Wife

Thursday on twitter, January O'Neil (@januaryoneil) shared that she'd posted three new poems on her blog Poet Mom, in response to National Poetry Writing Month (#NaPoWriMo). NaPoWriMo challenges poets to write a poem a day during April, National Poetry Month.

Of O'Neil's three poems, I loved Loser. As I read, I could picture it all, and relate.

"I whisper it under my breath like a little prayer
as we pass through the front door,
you going in, me coming out,
crowding the threshold
in a weird game of chicken.
We both have right of way
but neither is willing to yield.
A heart-skipped beat. A bottled misery.
The word ripples from the underground
spring of the diaphragm where a fissure
has opened once again, the trauma
of old love that never heals.
I brace myself for unavoidable contact,
avert the eyes, move through the stiff air
like a cloud wedged between clouds.
Say it, that mantra of the highest order.
I hold my breath as your windbreaker
brushes against my three-quarter length,
my 100 wool against your polyester blend.
What more is there to do but go through?
L for loser, double L for lost love.
The Motels had it right,
“Take the L out of lover and it’s over,”
because the body gives up what it no longer needs.
This is how I walk through without looking back."

This poem reminded me of another poet. Claudia Emerson won The Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2006 for her collection titled late wife. I agree with another poet's praise of the collection. Henry Taylor says of late wife, "They [the poems] are deeply absorbing because their author has brilliantly observed brief but powerful moments, and rendered these miracles of observation with secure craftsmanship."

There are many poems in Emerson's collection that I read again and again. They are striking in their realness. Here is Frame.

photo by sul
"Most of the things you made for me—armless
rocker, blanket-chest, lap desk--I gave away
to friends who could use them and not be reminded
of the hours lost there, the tedious finishes.

But I did keep the mirror, perhaps because
like all mirrors, most of these years it has been
invisible, part of the wall, or defined
by reflection—safe—because reflection,

after all, does change. I hung it here
in the front, dark hallway of this house you will
never see, so that it might magnify
the meager light, become a lesser, backward

window. No one pauses long before it.
This morning,though, as I put on my coat,
straightened my hair, I saw outside my face
its frame you made for me, admiring for the first

time the way the cherry you cut and planed
yourself had darkened, just as you said it would."

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