by Davi Walders

That you and I, I and you,
this twenty-fifth year after
you stamped your foot, shattered
the glass, and friends, so many dead
or forgotten, applauded in a ballroom
long abandoned, twenty-five years
of Monday good-byes, monthly wars
with stacks of bills, bags of garbage,
frozen gutters, nights filled
with pink medicines, fevered cheeks
on shoulders, the other hand reaching
for the pediatrician’s call, termites
chewing, and hours waiting
for the door to open, holding
our own daughter’s head vomiting
beer into our own leaking toilet,
that now, as mirrors mark the descent
of breasts, the tub catches silvered
pubic hair and our eyes wear pouches
and hoods, as though expecting rain,
that you and I could smell the salt
of each other, coming together after
long absence, silent, still, staring up
at the darkening ceiling, naked in a house
with empty, orderly bedrooms, the last
of dead roses and discarded boyfriends
tossed out, your hand touching mine,
our breathing slowing,
the wonder of it all.

“Anniversary” by Davi Walders, from A More Perfect Union. © St. Martin’s Press, 1999. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

My attention is drawn to today’s Writer’s Almanac poem by a friend who is slightly older. His girls are young adults and his wife is gone after many years together. My children are teens and one is just home from college and my husband and I split up. Two of my three day care teachers and most of my fellow day care providers at the park are dealing with empty or emptying nests. Most of those friends are growing older with partners.

In the day care, Liana and I find ourselves identifying increasingly with the mothers of our mothers. I tell stories to the young pregnant mother about how quickly the children grow up, how soon it is that the college return seems to happen. Liana talks about never seeing her high school age son while the parents we work with cannot get a moment’s break. A young dad stops by the park, overwhelmed, checking on his son crying out his first week in a nearby child care center, their second child for whom we had no space when they were ready for group care. We talk about the reality of life for young families today, and I remind him it is a stage of life. We give all we’ve got when our partnerships and our children are young, and then we look back, wonder how we did it and where they’ve gone, usually, but not always, the children, sometimes the partners.

For now, I’m still in the thick of the child-rearing, though my job now is to wake the teen who was up too late, to stop attending to my own needs for reading poetry, writing with friends, posting thoughts here, to unload the groceries I was too tired to take to the house when we arrived home at eleven last night after our last SVS staff party, and to replace them in the trunk with the tie dye supplies so I can make shirts with a young woman who was too sick to make hers last week.

Enjoy the poem, and whatever stage of life, child-rearing, and partnering you’re at. They are all fascinating, compelling, and poetry worthy. There was a piece in Writer’s Almanac below the poem about Jane Kenyon, who both wrote poems and suffered from depression, which I’d like to share as well. It’s right on. I think often about how sorry I am Jane Kenyon wasn’t able to enjoy the rest of her seemingly perfect life of gardening and writing poems alongside her poet husband Donald Hall and how weird it is to read both about their life together and to read his poems to the wife who followed her, many of them erotic. Until today, I don’t think I ever knew she suffered from depression. Life is complex, unpredictable, rich and dull, and I’m glad on another level that the poets write it all.

“It’s odd but true that there really is consolation from sad poems, and it’s hard to know how that happens. There is the pleasure of the thing itself, the pleasure of the poem, and somehow it works against sadness.” Jane Kenyon