By Special Request

StevenDanskyPhotoMAndS01Sylvia & Martha, photo by Steven Dansky

Two weeks ago or thereabouts, I posted a humorous poem about traveling by air. Last week I read that poem at the benefit to save our local bookstore, and also read a poem about love–in this case, finding the love of my life, only to have her undergoing heart-related surgery only two months later. The love poem was well received, and Nena said it made her cry. A gentleman sent me a special request, asking for a copy of that poem so he could share it with his wife. So here it is. (BTW, the surgery was at the end of 1997. As I write this, my beloved is in the next room, sending an email.)



I was happy before I met you
kneading my daily bread
in my own sweat
each loaf sliced like the last
needing nothing more
than my own company

I couldn’t imagine happiness
before I met you

if the gods take you now
leaving only a streak of memory
burnt into the endless retina
of night
it would be enough for me

and if they gave us
centuries of Sabbaths
braided together
it would not be enough for me


when you are self-
sufficient as an oyster
you can open

when you understood
a shell is no protection
the mirror of your beauty
can’t refract fate
your talent is no amulet
your pearls no bribe
you abandoned your secrets
and evasions
exposed your breast to the blade
the ripening of the heart

how can the gods take you
so quickly, yesterday lying with me
today strapped to a table
drugged into insensibility
masked strangers standing over you
with knives and needles
while I squirm for hours in plastic chairs
listening to someone buzz for a nurse
who never comes

if the gods take you now
my grief will be an anchor
sinking into black brine
so deep, so dense
that steel begins to float in it


when darkness opened
to swallow the sun of a dying year
a squirrel dashed across
four lanes of traffic
and up a leafless tree
in that last uncertain light
I swear he was laughing
he runs the same race every day
tomorrow he’ll win again
or be stinking meat
tomorrow the light will return

the gods are jealous
frozen in their immortality
incapable of risk, or suffering,
or sacrifice
stinking meat they created us
but only we who weep
over our own graves
laugh at the tears
and mock the knife at our throats
can love.

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One Response to By Special Request

  1. Nancy Myron June 6, 2015 at 6:51 pm #

    Martha, This poem is so rich and so beautiful. You are so lucky to be able bare your heart with your gift for language. Thanks

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