As I have posted poems from my distant youth, I think I’ll move forward in time just a little and reveal the first poem I wrote for Janet. We were at her little apartment, and she was cooking supper for us. I played traditional male and sat in her living room with my books and notebook. I have always been a lover of sunlight pouring into a comfortable room, and I realized that her space was beautifully lit. Some kind of nonelectric-guitar music was playing (on vinyl in those days) on her stereo. That sensuous cat bath of late afternoon illumination and listening to her gave me this poem, not overly deep or complex, as the title reveals (but contemporary poetry is sheering sharply away from the difficulties of twentieth century modernism). Here’s her first poem, about a summer evening, for a winter day…
Sweetness and Light
Kitchen sounds hiss around folk tunes,
and you sing along (bluegreen afternoon
slanting fat and generous throughout
your living room). Just morsels
of your melody fare above silver’s clatter,
hot water streaming, spoonsloshes,
fry spatter-whistles and battering.
Refrigerator thuds shut, syncopating
guitars’ rathskeller hum, while cars thunder
from the parking lot outdoors.
You keep clanking with the food
as sunlight streams windowshaped
her liquid hands around my heart
and melts my bones, yellowbrightly
seasoned and sauteed in sound.
You’re cooking, I’m trifling, and the day
is settling like an ocean all around.
27 May 1981
To be honest with you, I only inserted the photograph above to force the final four lines of that stanza to indent as I wanted. The photo is our living room now. I actually took the picture a year ago, the first shot with my new digital camera (bought on my own to replace the school’s, whose batteries no longer recharged adequately. I wonder how the new teacher has made out with that antiquated digital device).
The new camera is the most expensive thing I ever bought on eBay, and I was horribly nervous about it until the package finally arrived (after only a week or so: those eBay sellers are quick). Everything turned out to be exactly as advertised. I’ve only had one marginally bad dealing on eBay, and eventually that was made right, although I got terrified when eBay listed the seller (from Latvia) as no longer permitted on the site. However, he (or she—how am I to know?) came through with the CD, about six weeks late, and somewhere around the house I still have the Latvian newspaper pages used to wrap the jewel case.
Janet is not fond of me shopping on eBay (for good reason: it’s so easy to create a big list of brand-new things in just a few minutes, just like iTunes), so I probably shouldn’t tie her poem with eBay memories.
We had met the spring before the incident enshrined here in verse, when I cast her to play my wife (it wasn’t supposed to be me in the show I was directing, but the leading actor quit after, I believe, no rehearsals, and the cast talked me into taking the part—never again: I don’t know how those famous theatrical folk can do it, acting and directing themselves) in Romantic Comedy, my second outing as director for Maquoketa’s Peace Pipe Players. Even though she had disliked me as a pompous ass from our first theatrical experience together two years before (Play It Again, Sam—for which she got the memorable line, “I have had many men…” and which was my Maquoketa directorial debut), we hit it off in 1981, and things flew from there: we got married the next May. So it is appropriate that this poem is a paean to domesticity and what-would-become-martial bliss.