I can count on one hand the things I remember my mother telling me during the 12 short years I had her in my life, and I quote:
I love you.
Stop whining or go to your room.
The spirit of Santa Claus is real.
Always look both ways before crossing the street.
Clean your plate. There are starving children in China who would gladly eat brussel sprouts.
Not once did she say, "Ann, I once wrote a love poem."
So imagine my surprise when several years ago I discovered, on one of the opening blank pages in a worn but readable copy of Laurence Hope's 1942 "Complete Love Lyrics", a beautiful love poem in my mother's penciled handwriting. The book, with its ornate gold, green and red flowered-print hard cover, is one of the few belongings of my mother's that I have to remember her by. I can still see in my mind's eye precisely where it sat (bottom shelf, third from the left) among the other hundreds of books my mother cherished on the built-in bookcase in our living room.
This precious heirloom now sits on my bookshelf in my attic writing room. I open it from time to time, just to look at her handwriting and lightly run my fingers over the words she once wrote since I can no longer remember the look or touch of my mother's hands or the sound of her voice.
I can't say what calls me to re-read and embrace her poem on any given day. But I am a firm believer that our loved ones, no matter how long they have been gone, speak to us and touch us in numerous inexplicable ways throughout the remainder of our lives. Especially on those days when we need them the most.
Saturday was, apparently, one of those days.
I was slouched on my day bed, tired and emotionally drained, and trying desperately to find the energy to write, when my attention was, for no apparent reason, drawn to Complete Love Lyrics. I slowly leaned over, pulled the book off the shelf, and read my mother's poem. A poem with no title, I might add. Or date it was written. I am fairly certain it was written in the 50s. Most likely before I was born.
(Note: I am, of course, assuming my dear, departed mother wrote the poem, as there really is nothing stating she did. And I thoroughly searched dozens of poem data bases, and Google, using the opening line or key phrases as search criteria. Nothing surfaced.)
I began to read the poem a second time, wishing I could at least remember enough of my mother's voice to imagine her reading the poem aloud. I read it aloud myself today, and that's when it occurred to me...my mother's poem is just too beautiful and passionate to not be shared.
And so, my friends, I present to you, Jeanne Breyman Heise's poem. Posthumous title, via me.
Our April Hour
This is the moment, love, this the bright dream
Which fear may never touch nor time erase.
This is our April hour. Whatever scheme
Of joy or sorrow fate has planned, this space
Of life, lived fully, still will be our own.
Within our hearts these blossoms will not die,
And years from now these lilacs wet, wind-blown,
Will murmur our love's question and reply.
We have not time for fear or death or pain;
There is no need for bitterness or tears;
Hands clasped, we too sing April's green refrain
And dare assert life is not lived by years.
This is our moment, love, spring-born, spring-sweet,
And in itself fulfilling and complete.