A Poet’s Wife
(for Valerie Eliot 1926-2012)
Valerie Eliot has just died.
It is said that when she first heard
John Gielgud recite the Journey of the Magi
She instinctively knew
What she wanted to do
And what to do.
Imagine if in our self-important world
You were told that someone
Fell in love with life’s purpose
Upon hearing a poem; odder still,
A poem that recounts an arduous journey
Towards an unlikely birth centuries ago.
Odd? Uncommon? Or
In the England between the wars
Was there still some lingering presence
Of that past in the present before
The dismal future that always
Portends another end?
Perhaps the Magi saw all that and more—
In the caravan, in the small town,
Among those playing dice and
Among those wanting women—
And now, centuries later,
As winter sets upon us again,
I see and hear once more,
Melancholic yet magnanimous,
Among carpenters and plumbers,
Christians and Jews, in Brooklyn,
The borough of churches,
That same desire for direction.