Yolen wrote these poems while her husband was undergoing radiation treatment. Each night she would write one sonnet, and she says in the preface:
"It was a way to sort through my emotions while holding myself to a difficult task. In fact it was the only thing in my day I seemed to have any control over. For me it was unthinkable to look straight on the possibility of Death without poetic discourse."
I have found writing poetry equally therapeutic, and I loved reading these clear-eyed, unsentimental poems. My favorites include a description of her husband, weakened, taking his seven year old granddaughter birding. Yolen says that her caregiving has made her husband feel less strong as she frets about his eating and his hair loss. By contrast, being with his granddaughter restores him. "There's nothing so strengthening than to be told/ That you are a god by a seven-year-old." I also loved the one called "Letting Go," where she writes of a day when a friend takes her husband to his radiation appointment with these beautiful lines:
Yet in this first pained time we've been apart
I sensed, my dear, an infinite rehearsal:
A gap, a hole, a pinpoint in my heart,
A space for which I fear there's no reversal.
Yolen's husband died in 2006, three years after this book was published. These poems stand as a record of suffering, pain, hope, and love. I am celebrating an anniversary of many years with my husband, and have recently said goodbye to family and friends to return to Haiti; the ideas of love and loss fill my mind these days. This book made very appropriate reading.
Here's today's roundup.