Friday, September 29, 2017

Time Rift

    The lights dim.  I seat her
    At our table.  I am younger
    Then, smiling, full of music –   
    Singing softly so only she
    Can hear – smiling and she
    Smiles too, catching her breath
    As she does.  Beauty is thrown

    Down and we take it up.  Which
    Ever way we turn the light’s
    Brighten.  Then comes the drum,
    Cymbals, sax and trumpet.  Then
    Keys thunder and outside rain
    Begins to fall.  We step out
    In night-air crisp and wet

    Hiding tears she shed on a
    Night I'll never see again --
    Nor smile -- nor hear her
    Catching her breath as all
    About us thunders in my ears  --
    Leaving me singing songs
    She'll never hear.

Dust Swirling

    She’d say I loved her blind-
    Eyed, not seeing her as she
    Actually was, full of flaws,        
    Mistakes, bad memories,
    And she’d smile sadly while
    I dismissed her assessment,
    Her inability to see herself as

    I knew her to be then and would
    Be for a brief time yet.  Could
    I have told her more? She
    Drowsed through those many
    Years, barely hearing – sleeping
    The time as it slipped past, not
    Rousing to hear me say whatever

    I would, having heard it so many
    Times before.  She held my arm
    As we slowly walked through
    Those many doors to hear
    Again there was no time nor
    Strength to keep us beyond   
    Those few remaining dreams.

Friday, September 1, 2017

On the poem “Suddenly in December” by Rolf Jacobsen

On the poem “Suddenly in December” by Rolf Jacobsen       

I received North in the World by UPS a few moments ago.  I went immediately to some of the last poems he may have written:

In the last section, “from Night Watch,” is the poem “Suddenly. In December”.  Here are some excerpts

    . . . It all went so fast.  Two staring eyes.  Words
    I couldn’t catch, that you said over and over.
    And suddenly nothing more.  You slept.

    . . . Quick as a switch flicking off,
    the tracings behind the eye flash out,
    wiped from the slate of life-span.  Or maybe not?
    Your new dress, my face and our old stairs
    and everything you brought to this house.  Is it gone
        – under the snow.  Under the wreath of cedar?

    Dear friend, where is our happiness now,
    your good hands, your young smile,
    your hair’s wreath of light on your forehead and that
    girlish glint in your eye, your spirit and
    steady abundance of life and hope?

    . . . Companion beyond death.  Take me down with you.
    Side by side, let us see the unknown.
    It’s so desolate here and the days are growing dark.
    The words are few now and no one’s listening anymore.
    Dearest, you who are sleeping.  Eurydice.
        – Under the snow.  Under the wreath of cedar.

On page 287 is a note saying “This poem begins a suite of poems from the book Nattapent (Night Watch) that deals with the death of Jacobsen’s wife, Petra, and his memories of their marriage.  Petra Tendo was born in 1912.  She and Rolf Jacobsen probably met in late 1937 or early 1938; they were married on 21 December 1940 (see the poem “Barbed-wire Winter”), and she took his surname.  She died on 2 December 1983.”

Susan was born 6 December 1944 and died 4 July 2015; so she didn’t live quite as long as Petra.  In Petra’s case “It all went so fast.”  Susan’s death was much more drawn out.  The things the doctors did were of no help.  There were not “two staring eyes” in Susan’s case.  She died with her eyes closed.  There were not “words, I couldn’t catch, that you said over and over.”  Instead she hummed melodically, more musically than she ever had when she was healthy.

Jacobsen wrote “Quick as a switch flicking off, / the tracings behind the eye flash out, / wiped from the slate of a life-span.  Or maybe not?”   Jacobsen had become a Catholic at some point, but how strong is anyone’s faith when something like this happens.  It was enough for me that Susan’s faith was strong throughout her final days.  As for me, “maybe not.”

As to the merits of this poem, or at least the translation of this poem, it is hard for me to be objective, but maybe I don’t need to be.  According to “In his last book, Nattapent (1995), Jacobsen recalled their [his and Penta’s] life together: ‘Whoever loves for years / hasn’t lived in vain.’  Mostly due to these touching poems, the collection became a bestseller.”

Jacobsen wrote,  “Companion beyond death. / Take me down with you. / Side by side, let us see the unknown,” But he died February 20, 1994, more than 10 years after Petra died. 

Wonder Woman Dream

    Susan ran after me, “Larry, Larry!”
    I turned back and she thrust
    Wonder Woman at me.  I took
    It and as I did woke and puzzled
    Over the comic.  I had never . . .
    But I had called her Wonder Woman
    At times.  She once raced after

    A mugger in a parking lot and
    Grabbed her purse.  He slammed
    His door on her arm several times
    To make her let go.  She was still
    Furious when she got home.  She
    Suffered more than most but
    Endured as long as she could

    Do so decently.  After that she
    Stoically let go.  I could see the
    Cover but an instant before
    Waking, wondered what it
    Was she meant.  It seemed
    Unlikely she’d remind me not to
    Forget.  Unlikely also she’d

    Want me to toughen up – just the
    Reverse.  I scowled once in the
    Forest when we were approached by
    Two men.  Susan had not yet been
    Damaged by disease.  I didn’t trust
    Their conversation and kept my hand
    On the handle of my Colt until they,
    Fidgeting, moved on.  Susan berated
    Me for my suspicious mind, and for
    The chip she swore I always wore.
    I held my peace, keeping still as we
    Moved ahead, looking over my shoulder
    As we did, dreading the impalpable
    I feared racing toward us from behind.