All the lovers, denying, pretending
they didn't know what was
coming. I knew ahead I might lose you.
Your coat sleeve, presences, topography, pricked my
recognition, through soul, a
Path to light, that angles darkness,
our lying in the grass on a
mountain, hoisted biographies in the fragmented clouds
we watched, it was clear as the winds
that changed them. Face of
fate, that didn't
either have to be. Our incalculable
harmonies, bodies' lithe fabrication, seascape,
weather, mountains, the luck
whatever of place. Fulfillment swathed like
ammunition in the breeze,
your familiar warm shoulder, prescience -
so good there was nothing to say,
just the right pages turning,
beyond the storm, threat to our love,
their harbor risk.
- Jane Mayhall
At times, poems that I don't entirely fathom still move me, perhaps in part because their innate, near-animate power needn't be fully explicated or interpreted to be appreciated. This one strikes me that way: accessible as a whole, but not so easy to parse as one might expect, given its universal theme and quotidian imagery.
Perhaps you grasped all its nuances right away? Or does one particular line or stanza reveal itself to you whole? Please share your insights in the comments.
For more on Jane Mayhall (1918-2009) visit Knopf's page about her last collection, Sleeping Late on Judgment Day. Be sure to click on the "author q and a" link: Mayhall's musings on her life history are fascinating, particularly if you - like me - admired Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light, as Mayhall's biography parallels Mattie's in some regards. Mayhall gained recognition late in life and wrote some of her best poems - like this one - in her eighties. Heartening indeed.
And once again, let me recommend you sign up for next year's poetry month offerings from Knopf. The emails are free, and I guarantee you will (re)discover fine poems and poets if you do.
|Hamlet with Yorick's skull, photographed by Sue Shaw of the Cloud Appreciation Society in England. Catch the connection?|