APRIL IS POETRY MONTH: 'The Risk' by Jane Mayhall

APRIL IS POETRY MONTH: 'The Risk' by Jane Mayhall

Jane Mayhall (1918-2009) wrote some of her most significant poetry in her eighties, after the death of her husband Leslie George Katz, the founder of the Eakins Press, to whom she was married for more than fifty years. Her grief poems are nearly always love poems; here, in the aftermath, she looks back on the anticipatory grief -- the stunning invitation to loss -- that coexists with true love. 

The Risk


All the lovers, denying, pretending

they didn't know what was

coming. I knew ahead I might lose you.

Your coat sleeve, presences, topography, pricked my

recognition, through soul, a

lost stability.


Path to light, that angles darkness,

our lying in the grass on a

mountain, hoisted biographies in the fragmented clouds

we watched, it was clear as the winds

that changed them. Face of 

fate, that didn't


either have to be.  Our incalculable

harmonies, bodies' lithe fabrication, seascape,

weather, mountains, the luck

whatever of place. Fulfillment swathed like

ammunition in the breeze,


your familiar warm shoulder, prescience -

so good there was nothing to say,

just the right pages turning,

beyond the storm, threat to our love,

their harbor risk.

Excerpt from SLEEPING LATE ON JUDGMENT DAY. Copyright (c) 2004 by Jane Mayhall. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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