Poet's Notebook: On this day

A poet reflects on 60 years of love.

Poet's Notebook: On this day
Jeanne Meinke

On this day, December 14, 1957 — 60 years ago — a mixed-up young man and a lovely young woman got married in a small community church in Mountain Lakes, NJ. Still sporting his close-cropped Army haircut, he planned to sell metal parts with his father; she, also with short hair but in her white gown elegant as a swan, would work in fashion design in New York City. Alas, their plans for the future never worked out.

You’ve guessed who these unfortunates were. Jeanne and I turned this way and that, got lost, and then said the hell with these plans, packed our pens and typewriter and two brave youngsters (two more to follow shortly), and headed into the unknown, our parents supportive but shaking their heads. Poetry? Art?

“In Gentler Times” won the 1965 Olivet National Sonnet Prize, judged by W. D. Snodgrass, our first prize money, which we immediately spent on art.


In Gentler Times

for Jeanne

In gentler times  if times were ever gentle

you’d blossom in a peasant blouse and dirndl

to linger by a stream below a windmill

while I would weave  upon my poet’s spindle

bright cloth for your white shoulders  a gold mantle

of shining praise to cover love’s old temple:

but now  my love  we know no such example

of hopeful days  if hope were ever ample

Today  hope stutters like a guttering candle

the dark too dark for love alone to handle

Godot  because unknown  is worse than Grendel

and love uncertain seems a certain swindle

And yet my love  our love’s as quick to kindle

as simpler loves  if love were ever simple


from Trying to Surprise God, by Peter Meinke, U. of Pittsburgh Press