Marilyn L. Taylor
Bio Note: Marilyn L. Taylor, former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin, is the author of six poetry collections. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Able Muse, Measure and Light, among many other journals and anthologies. She was recently awarded the Margaret Reid Poetry Prize for verse in forms, and has been a finalist for the X.J. Kennedy Parody Contest, the Howard Nemerov Sonnet award, and the 2017 Lascaux Review prize. She also edited the recent anthology titled Love Affairs at the Villa Nelle (Kelsay Books, 2018).
Author's Note: This poem was written as a double tribute, primarily to my mother, Alice Lighter, who died on the 9th of September, 1974, and also to my son, Reed Taylor, who was born only days later. He’s been furthering her remarkable legacy with grace, good cheer, and compassion, even after all these decades.From a Dark Place
Who are you, child, still floating
in my daughter’s womb? I didn’t know you
in my time, yet you look like me—
there is a flare to the nostril and a tinge
to the hair that is ours.
Your eyes are sealed like mine,
but your mouth opens and closes
with incipient messages—
and if I should whisper back
you would listen, spinning with delight.
Unfold your fingers, if you can—
they are waiting to grow eloquent
and strong. They will move under mine
the first time you touch the watered silk
of an iris, or your mother’s face.
Your bed narrows, your bones
are bonding as mine fall
to powder. Soon we will glide away
from one another—you won’t remember
passing me in the dissolving dark.
But you have my gifts:
the chromata of our past, strung jewels
I harbored for you all my life.
Without their weight, I vanish
just as you, moon-drenched, appear
Author's Note: This sonnet slowly took shape after my having spent a several months researching a century’s worth of vital records archived in the library of a small community I didn’t know well at the time. I was struck by how vividly the deceased residents were resuscitated for me by the obituaries, if only by virtue of their first names.Reading the Obituaries
Now the Barbaras have begun to die,
trailing their older sisters to the grave,
the Helens, Margies, Nans—who said goodbye
just days ago, it seems, taking their leave
a step or two behind the hooded girls
who bloomed and withered with the century—
the Dorotheas, Eleanors and Pearls
now swaying on the edge of memory.
Soon, soon, the scythe will sweep for Jeanne
and Angela, Patricia and Diane—
pause, and return for Ashley and Christine
while Nancy spends a sleepless night again.
Ah, Debra, how can you be growing old?
Jennifer, Michelle, your hands are cold.
"Reading the Obituaries" was originally published in The Formalist
©2020 Marilyn L. Taylor
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