My father once wrote a poem for my mother, before they were married. Although he was Polish, he had an amazing command of the English language, rather like a Joseph Conrad or Vladimir Nabokov.
So here are his words of love, sixty years on, in all their time-locked beauty.
You asked me how I loved you, yesterday, and why.
Why don’t you ask the sea, how does it wash its shores;
Or the restless wind that blows that shock of hair
Over your brow why does it sigh?
Go ask the feathery ball that soars
Into the azure sky why does it pour
Its trills from love-swelled heart
Onto the cornfield floor.
How does each single blade of grass burst out from tiny seed?
How does the dormant wheat,
After millennia spent in Tutankhamun’s tomb,
Wake up to life again and raise its plume?
What is this thing called love, my love? Why should you ask?
The answer’s in your veins that swell with red, red blood
When my caressing hand each time will flood
Your heart with that unearthly glimmer of golden dusk
That covers all things ugly, cures all pain,
And makes the whole world shimmer in delight.
Don’t ask, beloved, how the summer rain
Does bring back life itself and amply will requite
The parched soil for months of drought.
Just drink with eager lips at that same mystic shrine
That once turned clear water into blood-red wine.
And let me place my lips on the urn’s rim, just close to thine.
Those beautiful words were written before my parents fell out of love. Actually, I’m not sure if they were ever properly in love. And that’s hardly surprising, considering my mother had lost her fiancé at the brutal hands of a Greek-Cypriot terrorist only six months earlier while on holiday in Cyprus, and my father was still recovering from the shock of his young Polish wife having run off to Chile with his former American boss. So if ever there were a classic case of love on the rebound, my parents’ marriage was it!
But I’m not complaining that they got together, however mistakenly. I wouldn’t be here to write this post, if they hadn’t. Nope. No Wendy Skorupski to moan about the joys and sorrows of love and marriage and child and puppy rearing. No Wendy Skorupski to write blogs and novels and diaries – mental trampolines for all the experiences that life throws at us, both the shit and the gold.
So that got me thinking about the following questions.
What is it that makes a great marriage?
What is it that saves great passion from succumbing to its sell-by date?
What is it that makes a faithful husband?
A faithful wife?
An eternally loving partner?
How can we keep alive the love that swells in our red, red blood?
How can we make the whole world shimmer in delight?
Ah, Tato, my long-deceased father … if we all knew the answers to those questions – both yours and mine – then every single one of us would be happy and fulfilled, and heaven would go out of business.
I’m sorry that your words were stronger than the love they conveyed. But I’m not sorry at the same time, because I still have them to remind me of you, and of the love you once imagined you felt for my mother, as she imagined she felt for you, for however short a period of time the illusion lasted.