Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Year that Trembled and Reel'd beneath Me

I’m giving my writing class for musicians the assignment of writing program notes for George Crumb’s song cycle Apparition. I found a website from which they can download and listen to the entire piece, and I am putting one of my copies of the score on reserve (I bought two when I performed the piece several years ago, one for me and one for my pianist), along with an anthology of Walt Whitman’s complete poems that I’ve had for many years (the text of Apparition is taken from Whitman’s great lament on the death of Lincoln, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”). I just had a very odd sensation as I wrote my name on the inside cover of this volume, as if I’d seen a doppelganger.

The book, while I’m not sure if it was a gift from my former husband M., is one that I very much associate with the years I spent with him. I was deeply enamored of Whitman’s verses in those days, and used to read them as if they were sacred texts. M. did not share my love of the poet he called Uncle Waltie, but he indulged me. One night towards the end of our marriage, I remarked as we were getting ready for bed that I missed Whitman; I suppose I hadn’t leafed through "Leaves of Grass" for a few weeks. M. got out of bed and brought me the book, and, instead of being grateful, I was angry with him. I’m not sure exactly why; I suppose I was upset that he didn’t understand that I wanted to safeguard and savor my sense of longing, rather than have it fulfilled, and I concluded from this that he would never really see or understand who I was.

I’m chagrined now by my overweening pride and self-importance then, not to mention my utter foolishness. I still pray that M. will be able to forgive me for my thoughtless, careless, selfish unkindness to him (not only in that incident). I felt just now that I was being disloyal to him and to that time by writing my new, married name on the flyleaf of that old book.

2 comments:

Tertium Quid said...

Nice piece. Most people cannot discuss their old marriages except to gripe about the flaws of the other. It takes courageous self-honesty to reflect on failure.

My wife went through an annulment. She dreaded the process in the beginning, but she wanted to be a communicant, and she knew she might learn something and be a better wife. Her annulment came through just before I was received in the Church.

Pentimento said...

Thanks, TQ; but it takes no courage to reflect on my failures. They are glaring, and I would have to be one giant, walking blind spot to be able to overlook them.

My first marriage was accomplished outside of the church, to a non-Catholic, without permission, so I didn't have to get an annullment. It's a strange thing; what was real to me was unreal in the eyes of the Church, so should I assume it was unreal in the eyes of God? I'm still working on that one . . .