So, you've all heard of that poem that goes "I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree. . ." before right? It was written by Joyce Kilmer--who was a man, in case you were wondering. Well, I have to say, I think his wife, Aline Kilmer, was the better poet. A little background, first.
Joyce and Aline had five children. Their youngest daughter, Rose, was stricken with polio which led to the family's conversion to Catholicism. Now, if you have four children (one of whom is paralyzed) and your wife is about to give birth to your fifth child--what do you do? If you're Joyce Kilmer you enlist in the military to go fight in World War I in order to gain fodder for an upcoming book.
Well, long story short, baby Christopher was born healthy. However, Rose died at age five, two weeks before the arrival of her brother. Joyce goes off to war shortly thereafter and, not being satisfied with his boring job of a statistician with the U.S. 69th Infantry Regiment, he transfers to the Regimental Intelligence Section where he was killed four months before the end of the war. Aline was left alone with her four children (another of whom would die in childhood). What kind of glory hound does that to his wife?
And so, we have Aline's poetry collection, Vigils, published in 1921. It is so beautiful and moving. Here are two poems that especially stood out:
ThingsIsn't that so true? Once your loved one is gone, their things do take on such a "terrible permanence." The next poem is equally chilling, especially considering Michael would die in 1927 at age eleven.
Sometimes when I am at with tea with you
I catch my breath
At a thought that is old as the world is old
And more bitter than death
It is that the spoon you just laid down
And the cup that you hold
May be here shining and insolent
When you are still and cold.
Your careless note that I laid away
May leap to my eyes like flame
When the world has almost forgotten your voice
Or the sound of your name.
The golden Virgin da Vinci drew
May smile on over my head
And daffodils nod in the silver vase
When you are dead.
So let the moth and dust corrupt and thieves
Break through and I shall be glad,
Because of the hatred I bear to things
Instead of the love I had.
For life seems only a shuddering breath,
A smothered, desperate cry,
And things have a terrible permanence
When people die.
Deborah and Christopher brought me dandelions,Kenton brought me buttercups with summer ontheir breath,But Michael brought an autumn leaf, like lacyfiligree,A wan leaf, a ghost leaf, beautiful as death.
Death in all loveliness, fragile and exquisite,Who but he would choose it from all the
blossoming land?Who but he would find it where it hid among theflowers?Death in all loveliness, he laid it in my hand.
This beautiful little book was another of the gems tucked away in the 800s of my library. I've said it before, I'll say it again--go check out an old book from the stacks at your local library and give it a circulation statistic. There's some amazing stuff hidden back in the mustiest aisles.
<I checked this book out of my library.>