Monday, September 26, 2016

Poem of the Week 9.26.16


Last week, Michelle posted this blog with a poem by Megan Falley.

When she read it aloud to the other interns in our office, I was immediately reminded of one of my all-time favorite poems.

"Recuerdo" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.


It was something about the cadence and the feel to the poem that immediately brought me back to my emo teen years. Where I and my best friend, (who is now a professor of media and literary studies down south) would exchange poetry via email. It was sometimes something we'd written, sometimes something we'd found. It was all very, very, proto-aughts hipster. Of course, we loved it.

I remember this specific poem, not only because I fell completely in love with the poem, but because he mentioned it to me right before we went to see American Beauty in the theatre. We sat there, popcorn between us, remarking on how original the plastic bag in flight was. How novel the twisted sexual relationships were, how real the daughter's personality felt to us at sixteen and seventeen, respectively. We were those theatre kids. But the entire time we watched, and later, at Borders Books, I kept hearing the poem in my head. It felt so "us" to me. It didn't matter that we were strictly platonic, and frequently discussed our crushes with each other, we were comfortable with one another in a way that most people never get to be. We are still close. The poem has grown somehow to me. It holds not only us inside it, but those whom we have chosen or, in my case, made.

Our dozen fruit, that bounty, is now where we reside. We have each of us grown and expanded. This tiny encapsulation of an evening is now that ferry ride that we are all on together. We all have cold nights on dark waters, but if we have people in place to ride out the night beside? We're somehow good.

Now, some years later, I am blessed to also be good friends with his wife. The fruitfulness of this friendship has gifted us both in ways we couldn't have known when we used to drink too black tea and eat too rich chocolate cake. It's the support the narrator of the poem offers the stranger which we in turn offer ourselves as we get older. It's an undergirding for our life's trajectory. When I started dating again after splitting up with my significant other of more than a decade, they were some of the first people I called to tell. There was never any question in my mind if they would offer him a seat on our ferry, an apple from our bag, because the essence of friendship is that there is more room than less, and more to give than we thought. In this case, in giving everything, we get it back in fruitful abundance.

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