By: Victoria Smith
He sleeps beside me:
my beloved. His chest
rises and falls to the music
of his breathing. The years
have given, and they have taken—
yet still, he lies beside me.
He is man and child,
all at once; friend and foe,
all at once; lover and stranger,
all at once. We dance
the dance of ages—he and I,
as men and women have,
since dawn of time.
The heat of his fl esh
grafts my body to his.
Listening for his heart, I plead,
“Long and steady, beat!”
My fi ngers indulge in the silk
of his hair. Inhaling him, I lose myself
in the musk of his skin—drinking him
in, fl ooding my senses, locking
memories in my heart, preparing
my soul: Take courage! As though
he won’t be here tomorrow.
How fl eeting is time,
how precious its graces!
How does one return
to living half a life?
I have loved completely
into sweet forgetting.
Poet’s Notes. I wrote this poem for my husband many years ago. Today, we celebrate almost a quarter of a century of marriage. It is fi tting to choose to feature this poem during our anniversary month.
One of the most gratifying things about being a writer is when a reader tells you just how much she or he appreciates your work or how it made a positive difference in her/ his life. I have the good fortune of having had just such a reader again tell me so, as regards above poem. At a time when I wasn’t feeling too inspired to write due to my increasing jadedness over the commercialization of the writing market that seems to mostly reward the fad of the moment—like some cheap novel about the sexual pleasure that could be had from either infl icting or suffering physical pain during what should be a loving act, or the latest work from a poet who happens to be the darling of some academic or ivory tower publication or of some big shot in the media—and in the midst of my frustration over an electorate that has turned our democratic processes into a personal vendetta machine instead of listening to reason and science to judge what’s sensible for the common good, a self-designated “fan of your poems” wrote to me saying just how much reading my poem above (that appears in my book, “Warrior Heart, Pilgrim Soul: An Immigrant’s Journey”, which she apparently bought sometime ago) enriched her and her husband’s recent celebration of their wedding anniversary, and how it has inspired her to write her own poem for him. This also reminded me of another time a few years ago, of how a college friend likewise read this poem of mine as her eulogy to her own husband. Boom! I felt the universe hit me on the head—again!—for being so foolish as to second-guess my life’s mission, which is to write.
I recall that as a high school student reading about the great men and women of history, I was inspired to attempt greatness myself when I grew up. Thus, I plowed through life thinking my life would be most meaningful if I could create a great legacy to leave to the world, just like those great men and women of history. However, I was discouraged many times through the years by the realization of how small and potentially meaningless my life is to the larger picture, and how ultimately inconsequential—that is, until another soul reached out to me and told me it wasn’t so for her or him because of my work or my presence in her/his life.
Here’s the thing about the ego: It judges itself by size. Yet who is to judge that the extent of greatness isn’t equally one that could fi t in one grain of rice as much as it could occupy the whole world? Who’s to judge that to affect just one life in a positive way is not worth the weight of that single “bang” that led to the creation of the whole universe?
My husband and I celebrate our anniversary today, looking forward to our move to what we hope would be our ultimate retirement home on an island among the San Juan Islands in the Puget Sound. I come from a country with more than 7,000 islands. Thus, I think of this move as somehow returning to my roots, at the same time I’m now inspired to go back to the root of my writing, which I’m grateful a few caring readers reminded me of: I write not to achieve personal greatness for myself, but to affect, in a great way, one soul at a time. When I pass on from this life, I’d like my memorial to say, “She was, by her works, a thousand angels who dwelt in a grain of rice.”
(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. “Like” her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. “Follow” her on Twitter @ AuthorVGSmith)