Friday, July 3, 2015


Yesterday I found the book of poems Mary gave me. It had been missing for years and occasionally when I'd go through spasms of regret that I'd lost it I'd search again but fruitlessly. Yes, it was in a bookshelf, and it's been waiting for me to be ready for it. It knew.

                         Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Sonnets from the Portuguese.

Mary was my mother's eldest sister, the eldest in a family of five siblings, and with my mother the second youngest of that family, and me the youngest by a long way in ours, then Aunty Mary was a good deal older than I. She had flame red hair and lived, when my memories of her start, in Vaucluse. She was heavily burdened, I suspect, despite very comfortable circumstances, and years later would never fully recover from what was in those days called a mental breakdown. I think about her often, and my cousin Robert, always with the feeling that age was then a barrier which now is finally dissolving such that she can talk and I can listen, through the poems. And fingers touch.

For me this is a very precious gift, a personal selection from another's treasures, from the heart to the heart, slightly worn and aged by her eyes and hands and thoughts, and worries. And there is an envelope with a letter dated 8 May 78. I sometimes think that handwriting is more touching than a photograph.

I've not been good with poetry. The intensity and concentration has often defeated my lazy inclination to stream of thought and less disciplined patterns. It's time.

                                              I thought once how Theocritus had sung
                                          Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years,
                                             Who each one in a gracious hand appears
                                              To bear a gift for mortals, old or young:
                                              And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,
                                              I saw, in gradual vision through my tears,
                                              The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years,
                                            Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
                                             A shadow across me. Straightway I was 'ware,
                                               So weeping, how a mystic shape did move
                                            Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;
                                            And a voice said in mastery, while I strove, -
                                       'Guess now who holds thee?' - "Death," I said. But there
                                          The silver answer rang, - 'Not Death, but Love.'

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