24 March 2013

To Joan Didion


I kept my distance from you
secure in the belief that distance
meant my husband could not
be taken. Like yours. Not now,

too soon. Distance so there might be
advanced notice of loss. Must be.
For life can not include such a loss.
That you made tangible. Raw grief

kept your husband's shoes closeted for his
return. In case. Not to be caught
without what he needed. Though
you were. Buffeted by depth charges,

stunned by waves of grief. Best keep
distant lest bomb's edges spread
outward and encompass bystanders
unaware. I was aware, however,

admired your words: exact, specific,
true in such a way that I turned away,
stepped back. Until my love lay ill, serious words
whispered. Then I was like you- lost, unflinching.



This is in response to a prompt from Claudia over at dVerse Poets Pub writing about Poetics and urging us to have a conversation with a literary figure. I've been in Ireland for a week where my Honey was hospitalized for and very sick with pneumonia. We're home now and he's healing well. My imagined conversation is with Joan Didion who wrote the extraordinary and heartbreaking The Year of Magical Thinking about the death of her husband and their remarkable marriage.





24 comments:

  1. whew...ok, first glad your hubby is home and ok, but thinking of didion in relation to what you just went through, well that is rather heavy on the heart...i can not imagine honestly...i dont like thinking on those things but you must really...esp considering my family is out of town, it is snowing and well i can not be there if...but they are staying put so...anyway, you poem hit me greatly...made me think...and feel...

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    1. It's what we can't quite imagine until we come too close. This was such a good prompt to help me express myself about my Honey's illness. Hope your loved ones stay safe and sound. Thank you for your careful reading.

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  2. excellent and deeply expressed poem. nicely done.

    like Brian, I'm glad your husband is well again. I read "The Year of Magical Thinking" and it was heartbreaking. She is an amazing writer. You've captured her essence.

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    1. That book affected me profoundly. I identified with the strength of their marriage and found the description of her grief brave.

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  3. I like the way you could identify with Joan Didion in this particular situation. I should read that book....as I think sometimes we all go through times of magical thinking as a way of coping. I am glad your husband is recovering. That must have been frightening indeed.

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    1. The book is remarkable and well describes the things we do in grief. It was a scary episode.

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  4. oh i'm glad that hubs is healing well...such a scare when things like this happen and glad you found comfort in that book as well... had a friend over here for coffee and we were talking about some people we know that are seriously ill at the moment and realized once more how fragile life is

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    1. Fragile for sure. We came face to face with that this time.

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  5. Oh, I completely understand your avoidance of Didion at such a time. Glad it worked and that yoru husband is getting better.

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    1. It's very strange to both admire and avoid such honesty as she brought to the book. I'm glad too, and grateful.

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  6. First - hope your husband is okay, and wonderful for you to make such good poetry out of it. I know what you mean about Didian - in that book her daughter also dies--just too sad--too awful. k.

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    1. She has another book that focuses on her daughter's death. This book gives the most searingly honest account of her reaction to the loss of her husband as well as glimpses into their amazing marriage. I loved the book and feared it in my own bit of magical thinking that my distance could keep it from happening to my husband. Strange.

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  7. Ohhhh!
    The poem tied me in knots. I read the comments to see how you were faring. Glad to hear he is home and healing.


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    1. I'm well now after a mighty scare. It does my heart good to see him on the mend. I don't know if you've read the book, Rosaria, but It's gorgeous in its truth.

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  8. There is nothing worse than that helpless feeling when you know there is nothing that YOU can do but pray. I am so glad that he is doing better. I hope he returns to full strength and vigor soon. And I envy him the love he has managed to keep alive in you. :)

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    1. Even as a nurse there was little I could do. He's healing well now, thanks Lou. Gratefully, we share a deepening love.

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  9. I have this book but have kept it distant too (perhaps for other reasons). We are thrown into times of fear quickly enough, and I am distressed that you have gone through this, though I'm relieved that you both are here to share this beautiful poem, and love.

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    1. At the time I thought it would help me understand the grief process better. It did. But...
      This major illness was really our first time experiencing the vulnerability of elders. It feels like such a strange concept applied to us with our mindset and good health. But it was scary in its potential implications. Gratefully, modern meds. handled the massive infection and healing is expected to be complete after a few weeks of rest and recuperation.

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  10. I have chosen to admire that book from afar...not reading it but knowing it is powerful. Hadn't thought about my reasons, but I think I recognize them in your poem here. I am so glad your Honey is on the mend!

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    1. Thanks, Nancy, he is indeed and I, too, am glad.

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  11. That is absolutely beautiful. And I am so glad he is on the mend. So scary.

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  12. I hesitated a long time before commenting--in the face of such a powerful piece, what is there to say, really? but then decided I have to acknowledge how beautifully you've captured that knife-edge truth which follows all of us who love deeply. This is a master work, Mary.

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    1. I'm glad you commented, E. It's vital that those of us who know such love attempt to put it in words, however inadequately. At this time in our history, especially, we must witness that love is love regardless of orientation (except for the delicious diversity!).

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