Silent Poetry Reading
This poem has been in my mind a lot the past few months. I think of it when I think of my clients whose baby died last August. And I think of them often. I also thought of, but did not re-read, Second Sowing after my own pregnancy loss.
The milk ungiven in the breast
When the child is gone?
The love locked up in the heart
That is left alone?
That golden yield
Split sod once, overflowed an August field,
Threshed out in pain upon September's floor,
Now hoarded high in barns, a sterile store.
Break down the bolted door;
Rip open, spread and pour
The grain upon the barren ground
Wherever crack in clod is found.
There is no harvest for the heart alone:
The seed of love must be
--Ann Morrow Lindberg
Ironically, I first heard this poem at my wedding. My husband and I had asked a writing professor from our shared undergraduate program to be one of the readers. We had to laugh when he gave us two choices of poems. The first was a beautiful one, "A Blessing," by James Wright. I loved it.
But this Professor was known for his obsession academic interest in the end of life. So much so that he was openly called "Dr. Death." We felt it was only fitting that he read a poem inspired by death. We couldn't have known the degree to which it would foreshadow our own experience. Dr. Death couldn't have known the degree to which his "homily" about the redemptive power of love would be something I remembered as clearly as the poem, and clung to and believed in after Louis died.
We made the right choice in the poem we selected. But I wanted to share with you the other option, too.
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break