Poetry Wednesday: Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year

Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year

How did we get to be old ladies—
my grandmother's job—when we 
were the long-leggèd girls? 
— Hilma Wolitzer 

Instead of marrying the day after graduation,
in spite of freezing on my father's arm as 
here comes the bride struck up, 
saying, I'm not sure I want to do this, 
I should have taken that fellowship 
to the University of Grenoble to examine 
the original manuscript 
of Stendhal's unfinished Lucien Leuwen
I, who had never been west of the Mississippi, 
should have crossed the ocean 
in third class on the Cunard White Star,
the war just over, the Second World War 
when Kilroy was here, that innocent graffito, 
two eyes and a nose draped over 
a fence line. How could I go? 
Passion had locked us together. 
Sixty years my lover, 
he says he would have waited. 
He says he would have sat 
where the steamship docked 
till the last of the pursers 
decamped, and I rushed back
littering the runway with carbon paper...
Why didn't I go? It was fated. 
Marriage dizzied us. Hand over hand, 
flesh against flesh for the final haul,
we tugged our lifeline through limestone and sand, 
lover and long-leggèd girl. 

From Still to Mow by Maxine Kumin.