I originally had an Erica Jong poem in mind to share, but when I looked at my shelf, the collection Good Poems jumped out at me. I'm glad it did. It was a gift from a friend my senior year in college. At the time he sent it to me, our friendship (relationship?) was, to put it gently, a bit complicated. (I am a lady, so that's all you need to know about that. And wouldn't you like to know. Just kidding. Sort of.) Because we've managed to stay friends throughout all these years, mostly by the beauty of instant messaging, and recently through occasional visits, I tend to forget just how it was between us at that complicated time.
Until I open this book, that is. Then I'm reminded by the dried rose petals I've used to mark my favorite poems. (Yeah, I admit it. I have dried quite a few flowers in my life. I'm a sucker.) I'm reminded by the letter he enclosed with the book that I've kept tucked in its pages. I'm reminded how I didn't really even like poetry until right about the time he sent me this book (even though I was constantly writing my own shitty excuses for poems).
Clearly, I now like poetry. And really, I can only thank him for that (and this fantastic collection). He probably doesn't remember what he wrote in the letter, and quite frankly he might be horrified that not only have I saved it, I'm blogging about it! But I'm glad I did. Reading it, I appreciate poetry, and our friendship, a little bit more.
And even if I'm a cheeseball for marking the page the following poem is on with a dried rose petal, and even if we don't remember the letters we write and the things we say to one another when things get a bit complicated, it's pretty remarkable the way friendships can adapt and grow over the years, if you'll let them.
I think it's kind of romantic, in fact. Like this:
Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann
By Lisel Mueller
The modern biographers worry
"how far it went," their tender friendship.
They wonder just what it means
when he writes he thinks of her constantly,
his guardian angel, beloved friend.
The modern biographers ask
the rude, irrelevant question
of our age, as if the event
of two bodies meshing together
establishes the degree of love,
forgetting how softly Eros walked
in the nineteenth century, how a hand
held overlong or a gaze anchored
in someone's eyes could unseat a heart,
and nuances of address, not known
in our egalitarian language
could make the redolent air
tremble and shimmer with the heat
of possibility. Each time I hear
the Intermezzi, sad
and lavish in their tenderness,
I imagine the two of them
sitting in a garden
among late-blooming roses
and dark cascades of leaves,
letting the landscape speak for them,
leaving nothing to overhear.