Tag Archives: poetry

Valentine’s Day

2/14/10

Valentine’s Day. My Valentine is a friend. We are not sweethearts, but pals. I sat next to her for 15 years at the PEN office. More time than I spent with either of my two husbands.

We’re pals who have shared each other’s romantic turmoil. Our romantic fields leveled now by age and death.  I ask her to be my Valentine. She invites me for drinks at the Russian Tea Room. Perfect. The room is red. The bar is lined with aged sweethearts, couples toasting their love with vodka and bite-sized bits of blinis.

My friend and I lift our drinks to a better year. Then she gives me a gift from the lingerie store, Agent Provocateur. I accept the slick pink shopping bag. “No, please!” I think…no garter belt or push-up bra, no matter how fabulous, can fix me now.

Thank God, it’s better. A thick book, THE GREEK POETS: Homer to the Present. Edmund Keeley, the renowned translator, says “Hello,” she tells me.  Then, the two of us part: kissing each other’s perfumed cheeks, flower scented hair, embracing in view of the drinking, eating sweethearts.

The Metro North Train is abuzz with holidaymakers returning home. Lots of red sweaters and mittens, exhausted colognes overcome by sweat, dozing husbands who missed their Sunday afternoon ballgames but may score later as a reward for their city trip.

A disaffected young man in a suit and tie shifts a limp red-rose encased in a plastic sheath and a miniature cheesecake in the shape of a heart to make room for me on the seat beside him. Is he coming or going? That rose will get him nowhere.

I open my new book in the commotion. I’m sucked in, instantly:  Aratus, “Burdens of blood and war shall bow their backs.”  Philes,”The drink cooled me down/as it flooded the fire in my heart, /so that, moving closer, I seized/your boiling heat to warm my shivering body.” Kazantzakis, “You’ve drunk and eaten well, my lads, on festive shores, /until the feast within you turned to dance and laughter.”

The conductor punches my green ticket but I’m way gone. Back to one of my summers in Crete, I’m on the back of my lover’s motorcycle tilted close to the road on mountain curves, my arms around his torso, my face hiding in the safety of his hair. Here life is filled with death. It’s the truth.

Later, the long driveway seems especially so in the ice cold car. The empty house stands larger, quieter than when I drove away from it at noon.

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I Don’t Read Enough

I don’t read enough.

Magazines pool colorfully around my feet. Never cracked books, fat books, thin books, picture-books, books with church book sale stickers still attached, books so old they smell, deliciously, of dirty hair, yellowed-paperbacks all stack around my desk. Books splayed like Pilates-ladies’ legs wait atop the night-table. Chunky books and ones with broken spines clutter the dressers. Upside-down titles nap on unused beds. These books call to me. Call to me.

I cringe at dinner parties when the person at my right asks what I thought of a new title. Where do they find time to read? Are bills unpaid? Phone messages permanently lodged in the machine? Don’t their cats take heart medicine? Do they not dry clean their clothes? Toenails. I sneak a look below the table. Uncut?

I read. I’m reading all the time. My glasses never leave my nose. But what is it I read? Emails. Instructions. Enough of an article to get the gist. A novel on a plane. All fat-free. My brain growls. My spirit gnaws.

Poetry is what I want. But, alone I won’t make it. So I assemble three local poets. Good thinkers. Good writers. I create a once a month group. We’re trying to give ourselves a name. Having four poets agree on anything is tough….

We throw out suggestions for the first session.  I win. “Poems That Made Us Poets.” We each bring 3 to the next meeting plus a bit of why. William Blake, Ferlinghetti, Robert Louis Stevenson, Keats. The poems are terrific but the “whys” are better.

Mine: Keats, “When I Have Fears.” My voice cracks as I read it aloud. I want this at my funeral. (Along with Louis Armstrong’s singing both “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” and “Wonderful World.” He’s my idol. And a collage maker, like me.) Amy Lowell, “Patterns,” and Edna St. Vincent Millay, “First Fig.” I’m thirteen again, struck by the powerful force of words, transported, understood, giving in to what William James calls,” mystical susceptibility.”

More to come….

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Next month: “The Poets You Can’t Get Rid Of.” Saddle-up Cavafy. I’m about to take you for a ride.

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