A Postscript to Lives in Pieces (Sequence Out of Order)—As Yet Unfinished
Part 4 is still in progress. This poem was written after the events, but it addresses the resultant effects of the events. Sometimes life is not linear, especially in the retelling. More often than not, the poems that arise in the initial retelling are too raw, too intense, and so they must be subsumed until much later when they can be resurrected for retelling in another time, with different pieces to surround and enfold them. This is the time for this poem. Its context will become clear once the whole story has been told. Perhaps I should wait until such time, but the words are crying out now to be heard. I must hearken to the words.
For My Husband, Returning to His Lover
The lover speaks:
“She is the sum of yourself and your dream.
Climb her like a monument, step after step.
She is solid.
As for me, I am watercolor.
I wash off.” — “For My Lover, Returning to His Wife,” by Anne Sexton
I ask my only love
if his new love
is prettier than I.
“The same,” he replies.
The same? How can that be?
Look. If I stand naked
before my mirror,
it is obvious (at least to me),
my beauty and hers
cannot be the same.
For example, here,
hidden beneath the hairs of my
pubis, lies the scar
of the last child I bore him.
And here, in the hollow of my neck
is the flickering pulse
whose rhythm I have attuned
to only him. And clearly,
my breasts have grown softer and lovelier
from use–four babies
have suckled them. How many
have found sustenance at her breasts?
I pity their unused firmness.
Look closely, these faint gray lines
at the tops of both my thighs, surely
she has not acquired anything
quite as exquisite. Mine are badges,
earned by keeping pace with him
for decades–the many treks
we made across life’s arduous terrain.
And this, explain this:
right here, this layer of skin,
thicker across my heart.
How can she possibly have
the same strong patch of derma,
repeatedly flayed and regenerated,
toughened from years of surviving
the fierce pain of first one loss
and then another? The same? No.
He is wrong. Her beauty
cannot compare. I have lived
too long in the arms of grace.
I have all of the petals
of all of the flowers
he ever brought to my bed
scotch-taped to my hair.
And I have all of the salty droplets
from every tear
ever shed between us
collected here, in the deepening lines
surrounding my eyes.
Eyes that have seen
too many sleepless nights,
sleepless from comforting
his three living children–
set forth under the moon–
nurturing his flesh,
preserving his legacy.
Eyes that have grown so dark
from all they have absorbed
that they are almost liquid now.
can reflect the light as hers do.
How many eyes
can swallow pure light whole
and still enrapture
with just a glance?
The same? No. I still have all
of his seed, given freely
every time he planted himself
within me, pooled here,
in this round part of my belly.
Her belly is flat. What does it know
of planting and reaping?
Show me the blood she has let
as I did when it came time
to sustain him, when only my corpuscles
could satisfy his concupiscence.
His teeth marks have formed ridges
all over my body–tattoos from the times
he could not taste me
All of the magic lotions
in all of the pretty bottles,
will not fade these scars,
nor would I even try.
The same? Foolish man! Her beauty
comes from a soft, unsullied life
and Max Factor. It is ephemeral, borne
of spun air and cloudless skies. It
like a late afternoon shower,
fading quickly from memory.
Mine is borne of tempests–
fiercely fought hurricanes
and unforgiving, relentless winds.
My landscape is permanent
and far too complicated
to be compared to an empty orchard,
awaiting the coming of life’s sweet apples.
The same? No. Forgive his ignorance.
Come closer. Can you not see?
The saint commits the sin.
can offer absolution.
There is no wisdom
in evanescence. There is no permanence
in beauty without substance.
The same? No. Careless man.
What an inadequate answer
to an inane question.
Tell him to go and play in spring’s garden
where the blooms
have already begun to fade.
As for me, I have
an elegant tapestry to return to,
just waiting for more golden threads
to be woven into its strong, peerless fiber.
The same? What I have
is as permanent as Michelangelo’s hand of God
reaching out to Adam.
The same? What I hold
is as valued as all of the beads
on all of the rosaries
in all of God’s houses.
The same? Poor, silly lost man.
His fingers have become so caught
in her embrace
that he has forgotten
how to read maps. He has forsaken
all he knows to be true. The same?
I think not.
September 19, 1998
There will be more later. Peace.
One thought on “Lives in Pieces: Vale et memini (Goodbye and I Remember)”
Your poem is one of the most moving I have ever read. There is hurt, grief but the most moving aspect of it is the overwhelming pride and respect you have for yourself (and rightly so) You celebrate the life you once shared , good and bad in full knowledge that no one can ever take that away from you and she can never give that to him.
What a woman you are!