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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Elder Poetry Interlude: Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year

Last week, I posted Poem on My 79th Birthday that reader Tom Delmore emailed. It was written not by Tom, but by Peter Everwine. (You can find two of Delmore's poetry books at Moonpie Press.)

Shortly after that first poem, Tom sent another poem about aging, this one by Maxine Kumin who died this year on 6 February at age 88.

In addition to being a renowned poet, she was a novelist, essayist, wrote children's books and much more. You can read about her and her work here.

This now is the poem Tom Delmore emailed, Looking Back on My Eight-First Year from Kumin's collection, “Still to Mow” published in 2008.

How did we get to be old ladies -
my grandmother's job--when we
were the long-leggèd girls?
      - Hilma Wolitzer

Instead of marrying the day after graduation,
in spite of freezing on my father's arm as
here comes the bride struck up,
saying, I'm not sure I want to do this,

I should have taken that fellowship
to the University of Grenoble to examine
the original manuscript
of Stendhal's unfinished Lucien Leuwen,

I, who had never been west of the Mississippi,
should have crossed the ocean
in third class on the Cunard White Star,
the war just over, the Second World War

when Kilroy was here, that innocent graffito,
two eyes and a nose draped over
a fence line. How could I go?
Passion had locked us together.

Sixty years my lover,
he says he would have waited.
He says he would have sat
where the steamship docked

till the last of the pursers
decamped, and I rushed back
littering the runway with carbon paper...
Why didn't I go? It was fated.

Marriage dizzied us. Hand over hand,
flesh against flesh for the final haul,
we tugged our lifeline through limestone and sand,
lover and long-leggèd girl.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: A Line


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.
Thank you.

In looking back at my life, I realize I had a very small view of the possibilities that could have been open to me, had I only been able to see them.

Wonderful. Thank you, it made my day.

Oh my! I'm not much for poetry, but that really grabbed me. Tears jumped to my eyes. Wondering why, it was for what never was and what will never be.

"The Road Not Taken", redux.

Gave my heart a little squeeze. How little I knew when I was starting out. But then, sometimes not knowing gave me the heart to keep trying new things.

I love this poem by Kumin, and may use it in the opening piece of the memoir I am currently writing. What is so striking is the influence the women's movement had on my life's trajectory in the late 60's...stay and marry? or go and explore the world? I chose the latter. PLus...I just finished a class by writer Christine Byl (author of Dirt Work) about tying poetry to prose in memoir. Perfect timing Ronni...thank you!

Oh love this. Thank you.

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