Monday, July 19, 2010

Meeting Again

Poem of the Day:
"Luke Havergal" by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Twentieth Century American Poetry

Robinson's poem is haunting in its authority and slyly sinister instruction. He writes to Luke Havergal (relationship otherwise unknown to the speaker) urging him to "Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal,/There where the vines cling crimson on the wall, And in the twilight wait for what will come" (lines 1-3). What will come is his love, "The leaves will whisper there of her" (line 4), but first Luke Havergal must go to the western gate, a gate without dawn ("where western glooms are gathering,/The dark will end the dark"); Robinson is urging Luke Havergal to meet his love in death.

Tonight I attended my second and last book club at the Boston Public Library, featuring Kitty and Dorothy. I have written of them before, and like to imagine them as a two-part series in this book of daily writings. I wish they could feature more, but the book club is only monthly, and there is no August meeting.

Dorothy and Kitty are elderly; Dorothy hurt her hip and now must walk with a cane, and Kitty has trouble reading text without fresher eyes, or thick thick glasses, to call upon. We said our goodbyes tonight, and they, grandmotherly in tone, wished me luck at school and in my years beyond (Dorothy teased me, 'You're a straight-A student, aren't you?').

The final stanza of Robinson's poem mirrors the first, but now with much more urgency. Instead of telling Luke Havergal to "[g]o" to the western gate he says, "There is the western gate," as if Luke Havergal needs no convincing, only direction. With simply this, he can meet his death and finally his loved one.

Robinson's poem made me think of Dorothy and Kitty, and whom they must miss in old age. It cannot be easy to watch a friends' failing health, and to have to do this many times in one year. It cannot be easy to want to join your friends.

I will miss my summer grandmothers, my old soul companions.

A Poem A Day Audrey


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