The Return

Poetry Unbound, the podcast, is back, and though I missed it yesterday, this morning with the gift of time, I let Pádraig Ó Tuama carry me into the world of “the best words, in the best order”(Samuel Taylor Coleridge). Today offers a poem from Rita Doves’ most wonderful, written-during-the-pandemic collection, Playlist for the Apocalypse.

“Eurydice Turning” and the opening line, benign:

“Each evening I call home and my brother answers” quickly becomes something else, the moment of loss so profound it brings me to tears. I, too, lost my mother to dementia long before her last breath. And with this invasion, her world, her self , our relationship, changed irrefutably.

In her poem, Dove marvels at the optimism of her brother, their mother’s caretaker. She sees her young mother, “younger than my daughter now,” and recognizes the disappearance of that mom forever. A bittersweet stream courses beneath this exchange between family members. She and her brother “…keep talking: weather, gossip, news.”

Now in my seventh decade, I have done the math, calculating backward from the first trip home with my three-year old son when I knew we would have to begin planning for a more stable living situation for our mother. Her story began in 1912, truly those years with her beloved brother and family were the last to disappear. She is 79 when we find a geriatric foster care placement that we, the six of her offspring, can accept as her home.

I ache for Rita Dove, for her brother, for their loss. I wonder if the specter of genetics ever haunts them as I selfishly acknowledge it does me. All this floods my morning thoughts with the first episode of Poetry Unbound. I am not glad, but I find comfort in loss shared with such love—and the wonder of poetry.

7 thoughts on “The Return”

  1. Poetry has a way of touching us that prose can’t. The flow of words in a poem move us quickly along the journey the author is taking us on.

  2. Oh, I love Poetry Unbound & have not yet listened to this one. Your writing here shows me why I tune in every week – the way Dove’s words connect you to your mother, to your son, to the poet and her family. This connection and emotion, this is why I read poetry.

  3. Poetry Unbound has a way of making me feel so connected with the poet and when I listen to this episode your thoughtful words will connect me too. Thanks for your honest reflections.

    1. It is a moving episode and one that struck home for me. I had read Dove’s collection but hearing ithis poem aloud brought it forcefully to heart.

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