Poem of the Week: My Grandmother's Love Letters
Writers tend to be readers, a truism that results in one of the great delights of reading: often in a one book a writer will reference another book or form of text, and away we go, discovering new gems. I've written before about such serendipities on the blog, but they abound! Last week's blog post featured Victoria Chang's mixed media work Dear Memory, in which she briefly mentions Hart Crane's poem, "My Grandmother's Love Letters," a title I could not resist. Today, I share it with you both for its own beauty and for what it reveals about how writers speak to one another across time and page. Chang talks about memory as a form for holding, and Crane, too, talks here about a space for memory "in the loose girdle of soft rain," a path to stumble through and explore. Crane's grandmother was a major influence on his personal and literary life, and here, he pays tribute to that connection.
My Grandmother's Love Letters
There are no stars tonight But those of memory. Yet how much room for memory there is In the loose girdle of soft rain.
There is even room enough For the letters of my mother’s mother, Elizabeth, That have been pressed so long Into a corner of the roof That they are brown and soft, And liable to melt as snow.
Over the greatness of such space Steps must be gentle. It is all hung by an invisible white hair. It trembles as birch limbs webbing the air.
And I ask myself:
"Are your fingers long enough to play Old keys that are but echoes: Is the silence strong enough To carry back the music to its source And back to you again As though to her?"
Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand Through much of what she would not understand; And so I stumble. And the rain continues on the roof With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.
- Hart Crane