Dave Weich on a Fragrance, Enormous and Alive
So you're looking for a wedding poem.
If you work at Powell's, you check out a half dozen used books and bring them
home to live with you. (Employees can borrow from our Portland stores and warehouses
for up to six months.) At first this just means one more pile of books you don't
have time for, a new pile about weddings moving in among others about baseball,
travel, and history, piles leaning against furniture and piles no longer, technically,
piled, but for weeks now expanding out of the corner of your bedroom and beginning
to overtake the greater body of hardwood floor: novels and histories, picture
books, memoirs, and likely no shortage of reference; piles of books culled from
one bookcase and not yet relocated to the next; piles to return; piles to give
away; a pile leaned up against the closet door to keep the cats from getting
in. (The doorknob has gone missing.)
A few days go by. Then a week. Then another. You decide to take action. The
books need better placement or they don't stand a chance.
To your backpack you assign an anthology of wedding-related poetry and prose.
You shelve The
Knot Guide to Wedding Vows and Traditions and The
New Jewish Wedding as eye-level face-outs on the heavily trafficked route
between dining room table and armchair. You seed your favorite sitting spaces
like any user-conscious planner would: a wedding book for the living room, one
for the nightstand, a third for the front porch.
The Spanish poet Juan
Ramón Jiménez married Zenobia Camprub? Aymar in 1916. Forty years later,
three days before she died, Jiménez thanked her for a lifetime's help and companionship
as he accepted the Nobel Prize.
His poem appears to be untitled.
I unpetalled you, like a rose,
Going back to the poem a third and fourth time... Revisiting its lines on the
couch in the evening...
to see your soul,
and I didn't see it.
But everything around
horizons of lands and of seas,
everything, out to the infinite,
was filled with a fragrance,
enormous and alive.
|I unpetalled you, like a rose,
||Sorry about that, by the way,
|to see your soul
||but really I had our best interests in mind. Chalk it up to
youthful naivet?. The youngest child of an enduring first marriage, I was
when you met me an impressionable student of romantic poetry,
|and I didn't see it.
||and thus hopeless at love, fundamentally uninformed about
the practical realities of desire.
|But everything around
||We decided to move in together after just a few months. But
Midwesterners we are not. Having mined as much as we could from Colorado
namely, each other
|horizons of lands and of seas,
||we packed our belongings into a storage facility, stuffed
ourselves and the big dog into my truck, and roamed for six weeks between
coasts, ten thousand miles, visiting minor league baseball parks on a tour
of strange small towns we'd likely never set foot in again. A housebound
winter followed in the empty, icy woods of Maine before we set down roots
finally in Oregon.
|everything, out to the infinite,
||Work, bills, aging, injustice, abuses of power, the fucking
Yankees every year,
|was filled with a fragrance,
||none of it stuck. Because there'd always be more time with
you ahead, dinner together or a walk or another vacation to dream up. Always
I could bank on the end of the day at least, when I'd crawl into bed beside
you and lie there listening to your breath in the dark,
|enormous and alive.
||thinking, If I'm lucky she'll outlive me. The world needn't
bear my sight of it without her.
What makes reading memorable? Often, for me, it's not the words on the page
so much as the context in which they're consumed: galloping through Vonnegut
novels in the spare minutes between college classes (his fractured structures
perfectly suited for frequent stops and starts) or discovering East
of Eden on a summerlong escape from the northeast more than any scene in
the book, I recall the back of the van as it rolled across western states,
my yellow Penguin paperback and the distant, dusty horizon.
Next month, in the field of my childhood summers, I'll recite Jiménez's poem
among friends and family. Discovering him in the anthology, reading his
words to my bride: that ought to lodge in my brain for a good long time.
About Dave Weich
Dave created our biweekly newsletter, PowellsBooks.news,
authors for the site. He is currently at work on a book about marriage that he enigmatically insists bears a direct relation to Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods.
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