A girl and a book

I’m reading a biography of L.M. Montgomery (by Jane Urquhart, Extraordinary Canadians Series), a poignant story of the writer’s life which makes her fiction even more meaningful. The new series Anne with an E is also worthwhile. One of my mother’s favorite books, Anne never made it to my bookshelf until I was much older. My parents, on my mother’s urging I’m sure, honeymooned on Prince Edward Island in 1970. To honor what would have been their 47th wedding anniversary, here is my poem.

The Resuscitating Tonic of Make-Believe

After the fifth or sixth closing of a now tethered
hardback edition, (her grandmother’s copy)
she sent Anne of Green Gables back
to the bookcase without ceremony or accolades
with only the guarded impulses of a pact
made between bosom friends: a girl and a book.
Even before her young lips knew
the timid inklings of what might
be later recognized as true love,
she had the entire exploit pinned down
like tissue paper patterned onto checkered gingham.

Someday, she’d bring him, her own Gilbert,
whoever he might manifest as, wherever
she might find him, to red clay sea cliffs of Anne’s
Prince Edward Island, leave the silk dress,
tuxedo jacket and champagne toasts behind
at the chapel, board the ferry and seek out
the lake of the shining waters, where fields
of tall grasses swoon in the breeze and hollyhocks
chime like wedding bells. But someday seems

an unreachable planet when one is thirteen.
The resuscitating tonic of make-believe begins
to peter out like a late August waterfall; thirsty
pragmatism piles up where once fluid imaginings
squeezed between a book’s secretive folds. Flipping
to the last page, she predicts that happily-ever-after
will look good pressed into malleable paper,
but such endings, with their achieved resolutions,
belong only to red-headed heroines, not real girls
who collect bookmarks and play tuba in the band.

cutting the cakeferne and ed honeymoon

The poem appears in Reconnaissance, published by Homebound Publications; second edition 2017 is now available.

Recon-cov-2

Prose and Poetry

A wintery poem from Lune de Miel, Paris honeymoon, marriage, aging, and how the past maps itself out in pieces to be collected when you get there.

 At the Café Select

Rue Montparnasse bustles outside the café window. It seems that there are very few hours of daylight in the Paris winter, though perhaps when something is condensed we can find the best part of it, like the pulp of a nut. As I watch passers-by folly onward, I listen to the voice of an American man talk about his life to a companion. I’m surprised when I turn my head to see that she is a younger woman. With my back turned to him, I imagined him telling his story to an old Navy buddy or a colleague he’s met for business. She is my age and this reminds me that I’m a week away from my thirty-fifth birthday. I hear him tell her about success, and he uses words like celebrate and thrive.  But then his voice dims and I wonder if perhaps he’s slipped into French; perhaps I am just lost in the gloomy sidewalk, the gray pavement only a few shades deeper than the sky.

Later I catch him say that he doesn’t feel like a success; he pauses and continues with “in some ways more than a success.” “I have survived,” he notes. I guess his age to be seventy, perhaps, a few years younger than my father when he died, a few years younger than the ash-haired woman with a cane who passes by the window. The woman wears a tweed coat that falls just past her knees; her pale stockinged legs move slowly, even with the aid of a third. Her success is quieter, though both journeys have fought off the closing of many hours. I doubt that this as an adequate measure of success, though I like the simplicity of such an idea, as if all we had to do was float like tree branch down a long river.

The café-crème is cold by the time I turn my attention back to it, and having to strain now to hear their conversation, I lose interest in the man and his companion. Instead, I glance up to see my new husband writing a story about a little Danish boy whose mother dies. I think of my father and mother who both missed our wedding, and I wonder about the river’s end. As my thirty-fifth year comes to its end, I may be halfway there, to the moment when I recount my hours and ponder the scope of my successes. For now, I put on my own tweed coat, reach for my husband’s hand, and trace another’s steps down the boulevard.

Click on “a story about a little Danish boy. . . ” img_5134for the current issue of The Passed Note, a journal which features “The Wind Barrons of the Pharo Islands” by Eric D. Lehman, the very story described.

 

34 km from Paris

To celebrate the forthcoming publication of my husband Eric D. Lehman‘s novella Shadows of Paris, I’m posting this poem, not of Paris exactly, but when you read Shadows, you’ll know why this poem makes sense. The characters in his beautifully crafted story also “know something of transformation,” but that’s all I’ll say. You should discover it for yourself. Make your pilgrimage to Homebound Publications and buy your copy. Click again to get  Lune de Miel, where this poem first appeared.

Pilgrim at Auvers
The pigeons at L’eglise Notre Dame know something
of transformation. White broods in a sky that has forgotten
color and the silhouette of clouds. A quiet stroll
through narrow, charcoal streets led me here,
up ancient stone steps to the church where Vincent
van Gogh saw blue-black sky churn in flight around
the toasted edifice. The flock perches until the hint
of something migratory and innate calls them to stir;
in hues of gray they erupt in a smooth arc, returning
to roost on the slants of the high, tilted steeple.
Winter weighs endurance and transition as stone erodes
to dust, leaves compost to mud, and summer flowers
that steadily surveyed August afternoons convert
to dried stalks in frozen dirt. Pilgrims, too, know of shifts
and I walk into the warm and lonely church to wait
for language to come again to my cold lips.
Fifteen hundred hours toll from the bell tower,
a grave listens at the top of the hill, and a downcast sun
aches to paint maize onto the bare winter scroll.