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'The Refuge of Words' by Elizabeth P. Glixman

Postcard ( A Reply)

"Your letter made me happy. How wonderful to think the poems have moved you. (They are my orphans, almost unnoticed by critics,) and it was good of you to tell me so. Have a Happy spring. May Sarton 1977"

These words on a post card were like candies with crème centers full of hope. They were like Godiva chocolate masterpieces. I imagined I would read this postcard until it crumbled from age. I needed faith in something in my life. May Sarton's poems were it. They gave me courage in many ways. Writing a famous poet was not an easy thing to do.

I devoured her poems and her book, "The House by the Sea," when life was arid and crashed around me like unruly ocean waves in a nor'easter. I had no path, no faith, while others around me glowed with the life possibilities of Wall Street brokerage firms, MBAs, MAs, PhDs, mortgages, Peace Corps stints, drug-induced dreams parents would pay for, or unhurried lives in suburbia with high school sweethearts, where decorating the kitchen would be a priority.

The sixties had left me jumbled like a Cubist painting. My eyes were not certain where they belonged on the palette of my face, and my thoughts were up and down everywhere, searching for another way to say "peace, love, and happiness."

Mononucleosis appeared with management demands. Money needed to be earned. I was not comfortable inside.

"Who am I?" I asked.

My parents told me, "You are our daughter."

A longing for solitude encompassed me. I was in a laundry spin cycle, and I could not push the "off" button. Round and round I went, keeping my head above water until the next wave hit.

In my frantic isolation, I found a book of poems whose cover painting was “Delights of the Poet” by Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico. Inside I read:

"I move through my world like a stranger
Where multiple images collide and fall
Fragments of lakes, eye-or a mirror.
How to include, make peace with them all?" *

When I read May Sarton's words, I was united with all who, like me, roamed the earth trying to recreate themselves in darkness, and I breathed a sigh of relief at this comeraderie.

"Anguish is always there, lurking at night,
Wakes us like a scourge, the creeping sweat.
As rage is remembered, self inflicted blight.
What is it in us we have not mastered yet?"**

The Reading (years later)

My hometown library invited May Sarton to read her poems. What seemed like a herd of mesmerized word lovers was there that night, fitting tightly into the small room on the second floor that was saved for speakers.
From the back row of chairs I moved up further to the front before the reading started, wanting to have the best view of this Goddess of Words. People wandering in their own anticipations floated through narrow aisles around the metal folding chairs. We were all like unruly soccer fans, longing to get a look at May.

At a roadblock of talking people, I stretched my neck to find her. I was tossed by a force that pushed into me just fast enough to jostle my equilibrium. It was the Goddess of Words herself! We had been pushed together by the swiftness of others' longings. I searched her face. She stared. She was a small elderly woman wearing a plain, dark suit with a proper, white collar. She stopped and looked at me with her penetrating, kind, blue eyes.

"Only your face (is this too illusion?)
So poised between silence and speech
Suggests that at the center of confusion
An inward music is just within reach."*

Meeting The One You Admire

My friend, Kathy, met the pope. She had felt a light around him.

"No", I had said. "Not possible."

Now I knew what she meant. There was a subtle light emanating from May's face. It was clear and blessed. I was enclosed in the directness of her poetic mind. My thoughts stopped in this moment of balanced synchronicity. I remembered more of her poem:

"Can so much be spoken by an eyelid,
Or the bent forehead so much light distill?
Here all is secret and yet nothing hid,
That tenderness, those deep reserves of will."*
"There is no future, past, only pure presence
The moment of a glance is brimmed so full
It fuses consciousness to a new balance-
-This is the action of the beautiful."*


I loved her orphans and had told her so in a sealed envelope. I imagined she opened the letter in her house by the sea. She would never know the woman she was jostled by at the library reading was the one who was her fan. There was no need. Everything was already said.

"Lakes mirrors every broken radiance
Shine whole again in your reflective face,
And I, the stranger, centered in your presence,
Come home and walk into the heart of peace." *

divider

Elizabeth P. Glixman's poetry, fiction, and interviews can be read online at "Outsider Ink", "Erosha", "Wicked Alice", "In Posse", "Frigg," "storySouth", "Eclectica," and "3 A.M. Magazine" and in print in "Tough Times Companion," a publication of the Institute on Violence and Survival at the Virginia Foundation For the Humanities.

* The Action of The Beautiful- May Sarton "Collected Poems" 1930-1973
** The Invocation to Kali- May Sarton " Collected poems 1930-1973


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