Jane Mayhall (1918-2009) wrote some of her most significant poetry in her eighties, after the death of her husband Leslie George Katz, the founder of the Eakins Press, to whom she was married for more than fifty years. Her grief poems are nearly always love poems; here, in the aftermath, she looks back on the anticipatory grief – the stunning invitation to loss – that coexists with true love.
All the lovers, denying, pretending
they didn’t know what was
coming. I knew ahead I might lose you.
Your coat sleeve, presences, topography, pricked my
recognition, through soul, a
Path to light, that angles darkness,
our lying in the grass on a
mountain, hoisted biographies in the fragmented clouds
we watched, it was clear as the winds
that changed them. Face of
fate, that didn’t
either have to be. Our incalculable
harmonies, bodies’ lithe fabrication, seascape,
weather, mountains, the luck
whatever of place. Fulfillment swathed like
ammunition in the breeze,
your familiar warm shoulder, prescience —
so good there was nothing to say,
just the right pages turning,
beyond the storm, threat to our love,
their harbor risk.
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