Friday, March 4, 2016

Ten below zero this morning. This has been the strangest winter I've ever experienced. One day it's 40 degrees and raining; the next, we've dropped into the deep freeze. Meanwhile, the chickadees are singing their spring songs, and the barred owls are carousing in the icy woods. Little by little the days lengthen their twilights. Golden squares of sunlight carpet the floors.

Though I could not reach any of my high notes, I did manage to sing at band practice yesterday. I did manage to sleep all night long and to wake in the morning without feeling like I should be fed to the dog. Convalescence is sweet. I wrote a poem about it once . . . a paean to Robert Louis Stevenson (dying of consumption but pretending that he wasn't) and his beloved wife Fanny.


Dawn Potter

Bright morning in a garden chair
on the esplanade, mummified, half-prone,
amid shawls and thick rugs,
pleased to watch the steady wavelets

chink among the stones of the shingle,
the rain-dark weed; couples sprinkled
athwart the plage in rational pairings,
small ones crouched at the margin

of the tongued sea, white-frocked mothers
paused above them, parasols bowing
under the clean wind like cormorants.
And we helpless, not unhappy ones

also take the air—infants, fragile parents,
consumptive collectors of nature—
our rôle in the seaside schema clear
as looking-glass to any novelist

or digging child: we are the audience,
safely tucked beyond a cavernous
proscenium: no change, no dénouement;
our part mere endless, watchful pause.

Even I could pencil volumes in the room
of this eternal morning, placid time arrested,
every actor idle now, except my wife.
Fifty paces lonely, down the gravel walk,

she ducks the crown of her hat
gravely into wind—so thin, so spare,
yet she presses forward and away,
eager ship bound for passage,

fruit of the Indies sweet as her mind’s eye,
though her only voyage is this solitary
foray to the jetty, servant of wind and salt,
gull-compass, adrift in the northern sea.

How simply she recedes.
A gust lifts the hem of her dress: and half
my heart cries desolation,
half croons its own brief hymn to solitude.

Even ardent sentinels require space
for love, a narrowed lens,
each elastic link of habit tense
and re-invigoured by our loneliness.

Tide splinters over pebbles, a rampant gust
seizes heedless gulls; the mothers on the beach
cling to parasols; and on the esplanade,
we invalids rustle in our chairs,

alarmed by autumn’s deadly kiss.
Far down the jetty, my doll-wife pauses,
then turns, landward, hands to her hat,
brim bent, dark ribbons flying.

Now is the season of departure,
rich kick of wings into the east wind,
an avian ecstasy of sinew and speed.
Nothing seems less likely than return,

and yet her lips shape a query.
What rights have the earthbound
to answer nay? I raise my book aloft,
air drums between us like a harp-string,

and she begins to laugh, one glove
clutching her hat, the other
her fluttered skirt: the wind tears
at her hair; and laughing still,

she flings up both hands to me,
to the gull-current, sky
awash with ribbons, with silk;
and she runs.

[from How the Crimes Happened (CavanKerry Press, 2004)]

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