Today 42 years ago, I met my wife. I like to mark the day and give thanks. Please indulge a grateful husband.
On the 40th anniversary of that day I wrote this poem. It’s still true. Happy Meeting Anniversary, Noël. Let’s go out tonight.
Six Six Sixty Six
And That Glad Afternoon
For some the summer marks the ripening
Of seeds sunk in the furrows of the spring,
Or bulbs long buried that return each year
By some in-built awareness: June is here!
But that is not what summer was in June
Of sixty-six for us the afternoon
We met in Fisher Hall. What happened there
Was not a ripening. It came from where
We did not know. We did not plant this thing,
Nor did it ever, like a bulb, upspring
In any field or any time before.
It was original. Of course, a score
Of past millennia had seen the form,
The species, cool, abstract, but not this warm
And living flow’r, this solitary thing
So similar, and yet unlike what spring
Has made in millions. This was new, this plant,
Sprung up so swiftly, in a span that can’t
Be measured. There, before I knew your name,
Before a clock could start, the place became
A garden and the flow’r was up, perhaps
More like a yellow dandelion than
The sapling of an oak. How seldom can
The tree be known from its first, sudden shoot!
The prophecy inside the stem is mute.
Do these green vessels flow with love or lust?
God knows. The rest assail sweet sin and trust.
But now, this very day, marks forty years
From that uncertain afternoon. No seers,
No prophets now, are needed to foresee
If that frail shoot would die, or be a tree
With forty solid rings of wood. This was
No dandelion life, then death. What does
The winter mean to us! Another ring
Of solid wood, another ripening
With flow’rs and fruit and feasting in the sun
Pressed down, solidified, beneath a ton
Of snow, until the fibers form like steel,
Another thick unbending ring and seal
Of how I feel for you now forty years
Since that first fragile afternoon: the fears
Of those first days without some prophecy
Of what would be, are gone. This is a tree
With forty rings of love, all thick with joy,
Made firm with winter sorrows that destroy
Frail flowers, but for us encircle spring
And summer bliss, and make another ring
Of solid love. I bless you, happy June
Of sixty-six, and that glad afternoon.