The very next day I happened to hear a portion of an interview with the late poet on NPR, in which she described her traumatic childhood. A victim of sexual abuse from a very early age, Ms. Oliver turned to nature and to words to save herself. And while many of her poems are rooted in her love of the natural world, some address the abuse she survived.
Her powerful poem, Rage, deals with the hard truths of her young life.
Another poem, A Visitor, focuses on the aftermath.
I had no idea these poems existed—that this woman who wrote such beautiful words about nature also wrote soul-wrenching poetry about the dark horrors she endured as a child. I wanted to save this little girl, but she saved herself instead. I guess, in the end, we all do the same. If we’re lucky.
My small collection of poetry books includes one by the incredible Billy Collins. Titled, Sailing Alone Around the Room, this book is a treasure. There are so many terrific poems in this book, but I’ll share just one this evening.
How perfectly Mr. Collins expresses my fascination with the man in the moon.
When I was writing my third novel, Wedding at the Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort, I pictured a scene in which one of my favorite characters, Martha Murray, would recite, or have another character recite, a poem she’d written for her wedding ceremony. For several weeks I wrangled with writing a poem for Martha but nothing felt right. I was pulling my hair out and getting nowhere.
Then one afternoon my lovely friend and trusted confidant, Flora Diehl, called to visit and during the course of that call I said something like, “Maybe you could write Martha’s poem.”
I’m not sure what prompted me to say that. It wasn’t premeditated, it just popped into my head and immediately came out of my mouth. Regardless, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Flo thought about it and responded several days, maybe weeks, later with the perfect poem for Martha’s wedding. I cried the first time I read her poem, “Now,” and every time I read it I get teary-eyed. Flo perfectly captured what I wanted Martha’s poem to feel and sound and even look like.
I’m not printing it here. Maybe one day I will, but I feel like the poem fits best within the context of the whole story. There are also a few gentle spoilers embedded in Flo’s contribution to my tale, and we’d hate to give anything away.
Readers can find the poem “Now” on page 302 of the paperback and again after “The End,” but before the acknowledgements. In the e-reader version it’s anyone’s guess since font size matters you know, but it’s near the end of the book.
If you haven’t yet read the first book in the series, Mayhem at Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort, I suggest you do so before reading Wedding, but I think there’s enough backstory in book two that one wouldn’t necessarily have to read book one. (Although that would make me happy…)
Due to COVID, I haven’t seen Flo in person in over two years, but when I do see her again I’m going to ask her to read the poem while we enjoy a glass of wine. I’m stocking up on Kleenex for the occasion.
If I tell you I saw Rembrandt this morning, his face staring up at me from my bathroom rug, of all places, would you think me insane or would you direct me to the proper authorities?
Had it been the Virgin Mary I’d seen, I’d know exactly who to contact. Alas, it’s a long-dead Dutch painter.
On second thought, it might not be Rembrandt at all, but instead the steely-eyed conquistador whose likeness graced the walls of my childhood home during one of Mom’s theme periods of decorating.
Although, the image bears a striking resemblance to a hat-wearing woman from a famous painting, the title of which escapes my mind, except the visage on my bath mat clearly has a mustache, and the lady in the painting does not.
But, wait. It’s none of the above.
The closer I get the more I realize it’s likely Sigmund Freud come to call. Oh, the irony.