Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Where the poem comes from: Sandra Kohler

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Where the poem comes from: Sandra Kohler

Monday, June 29, 2009

Here’s another one of my posts that answers my ongoing question,”How did that poem come to be written?” This poem, “Maybe Sibelius,” is by my friend Sandra Kohler.

Sandy, a former member of the English department at Bryn Mawr College, is the author of two books, “The Country of Women,” published by Calyx Press; and “The Ceremonies of Longing,” which was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press and won the 2002 Associated Writing Programs Award Series in Poetry. She has been a recent “featured” poet in Diner, Natural Bridge, and The Missouri Review, and has a poem in the new issue of The New Republic.

“Maybe Sibelius” was published in PMS: poem/ memoir/story #4, 2004.

   Maybe Sibelius

This morning there's a bit of Sibelius lodged
in my brain, a motif, repetitive, longing.
When I put words to it, they're the Beatles'
–"I've got to get you into my life." Last night,
wild thunderstorms, lightning for hours after
the storm passed over. I dream you and I
are making love in a room next door to grief,
that bleak presence aphrodisiac. This after a day
on which you irritate me, I bore you. At cross-
purposes, we gesture concessions, fail to signal
anything more than a vague wave at some mirage
of compromise. I think you're obsessed with
our son, you that I'm obsessed with the garden.
I know what I'm not talking about, I only guess
what you're not. In the dream we are dancing
while making love, to improbable music, maybe
Sibelius. What is it I must get into my life?
Long lapses, rests in the music. My heart turns
over when I catch myself thinking if you died
I'd become a hermit. I already know what that
dream signals: on the other side of the wall from
bliss there is anguish. I can't sleep nights though
I'm not obsessing about anything. The story is a
ronde: A loves B who yearns for C who's mad
about A. A is the question, B the answer, C is
the demurrer. Yes, I'm obsessed with the garden.
I want to spend all day on my hands and knees,
smelling the soil. I want another life to listen to
opera, one to read Dante, one for Proust. One
in which to become a hermit. I'm jealous when
our son answers your emails, not mine. The rain
is a sudden burst, deluge. You are what I have
to get into my life. You are what I have. What
if, hurtling through these storms, we forget to
touch, to make the gesture that will heal us?

Sandy says, “This is one of the poems I've been writing recently (over the past 10 years or so) that I think of as "old married love poems." One of the things I try to get at in them is the complexity and volatility of our emotional lives, the way we feel contradictory impulses and desires, experience rapid changes in the weather of a relationship. Love poems traditionally focus more narrowly on desire and on the ideal nature of the beloved; I want to tell a different kind of truth about love. And I also love being able to allude to my passion for Sibelius in a poem.”

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sandy, for this subtle and compelling poem. Beautiful and truthful.

Susan D.

June 29, 2009 at 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did capture a different truth and I mean "captured". Lovely poem and a wonderful use of the line from the Beatles. And how excellent that you could reference Sibelius so effectively. I am always trying to get a favorite musician to do some work in one of my poems but just haven't found a way to use Lou Reed in a manner that works. Also of particular note is the turn to your obsession in the garden when it seems that you have denied it.


July 1, 2009 at 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As often happens when I read Sandra's poems, "Maybe Sibelius" illuminated a sadness I'd hidden away and prodded me to own an unarticulated truth about my own experience. Thank you Sandra.

Laurie C.

July 8, 2009 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Ellen Steinbaum said...

And isn't that exactly what a good poem should do--point us to a new true thing.

July 8, 2009 at 2:39 PM  

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