RDW's poems

Pre-Senile 1 and 2

Pre-Senile 1

I start with names: daughters, grandchildren;
the book I’m reading now, the one before;
the people in my office (only three).
That’s the check: they’re there, I’m there.

It’s a good day, and I get up.
I’ve never lost the daughter names, not yet.
Grand-daughter once was gone; twelve hours gone
wherever memory goes when it’s not home.

I’d like to track it down; and put it out
of misery.  Then sit back.  No more hunts
for who and what and where I think I am
and who these people are who speak to me.

Trying to remember, I reach into a mirror;
for something behind, something wrong way ‘round.

Lists help, and notes.
“Richard, you’ve got your notepad: you do minutes”
They think I’m thorough, and mainly never know
I’m barely with it. First ‘notes’ are their names.
“How formal you are Richard, writing such a proper attendance list”
You just do not know, lady, that when I forget your name,
in ten minutes, though I’ve worked with you for years,
I’ll read it off this list.
———————–

Pre-Senile 2

My favourite poet?  I mean, I know —
this sudden snow reminds me of “silver shoon”.
I know who – or even whom – I mean;
I just can’t say her name.

She married William Rose Benet, she was
sister-in-law of Stephen Vincent Benet, and friend
of that other one, Edna St Vincent X.  Could it be
Edna St Vincent Benet?  I’ve already done Benet.
Here’s where Google helps, on a good day.  I remember
William Rose(Benet) was the editor of
the Saturday Review, and brother Stephen
Vincent (this Vincent I’m sure of, somehow) wrote
John Brown’s Body which got the Pulitzer
and Book of the Month and made a fortune
for a poet — back in 1928/9
which he promptly invested – and as promptly
totally lost — in the Great Crash, October 29.

That I remember — but who wrote “silver shoon”?
She came to England, and was very poor
and Edna St Vincent whatever defended her.
She completed arranging her final book
barely, then died, at something sad like 43.

Google tells me Edna St Vincent Millet.
A relief.  I don’t need two Vincent Benets
running around eluding me: one Saint, one Stephen.
But — now there are three Millets, or Milleas:
the American poet, the French painter spelled the same
and the English painter with the French name
that sounds the same – at least to me.
And is the grain m-i-l-l-e-t?
Four Millets – and I still can’t say the name
of my favourite poet, who wrote “silver shoon”.

The snow will melt before I dredge her up.  Ah –
she comes at the end of the alphabet — like me.
I always find her bottom of the list:
Wylie, Elinor.  How could I?  I feel ashamed
like the whole day I didn’t know
My own granddaughter’s, my only granddaughter’s name.

Which is Rowan, an Appalachian flowering shrub
no doubt mentioned by Stephen Vincent Benet
in Mountain Whip-poor-will, which he also wrote
and I also read, and remember reading
on a good day.

***
And John Paul here has such splendid advice:
“if you want to make it as a performance poet,
you really need to memorise your poems.”

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