Aug. 7, 2010
That man who was married in the same black suit
he was laid out in, years later, and buried,
his widow's tears—they might all make sense to you,
now that the two of you are to be married.
You've seen old photos of the two of them
taken seven decades back or more.
They showed up smiling and said, of course
we will, for better or worse, and then
they raised their glasses, cut the cake and kissed
and tossed the bride's bouquet and garter out
and thanked their parents and assembled guests,
then danced until the candles were blown out,
then danced some more; they were that enamored.
And who could blame them, so nearly perfect
in their flesh and finery and desires;
in all ways poised and blessed and elect
as you are now, and may you always be:
each of you eager to please the other
to let the selfish minute pass, to see
yourselves perfected always in each other.
That old man, when he was young, he brought his bride
home to the house he had readied for her,
and swept her up and carried her inside
as was the custom then, and then together
they helped each other out of their new clothes:
his gabardines, her lace and satin gown,
his tie, her veil, his buttons and her bows
then stood there looking at themselves, alone.
Before they fell into their embracing,
because they thought they'd need them in the end,
they tucked their garments carefully away
in cedar boxes underneath the bed.
And when the going got a little rough
when patience frayed or tempers flared, when love
seemed to have left them only filled with loss
as in all lifelong marriages it must,
when forgiveness and forgetting seemed
impossible, they'd kneel beside their bed
and bury their faces in those wedding things—
her tears, his curses, her fears, his pride and dread,
all dried and muffled in that day's old raiments
which smelled of their sweet youth and promises.
And though they never settled everything,
they did their best to do the next best thing.
It's the birthday of writer and editor Anne Fadiman, (books by this author) born in New York City (1953). Her father was the critic and essayist Clifton Fadiman, and she grew up in a literary household, making castles out of the books in her father's library. Her collection of essays, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (1998), is about her deep love of books.
It's the birthday of the journalist Jane Kramer, (books by this author) born in Providence, Rhode Island (1938). She's known for the many long pieces she's written for The New Yorker magazine about teenagers in Morocco and cowboys in Texas and Allen Ginsberg and Europe. She's the author of the book Lone Patriot (2003).
The two writers met at a sculptor's studio in Paris. Colet was married when she and Flaubert began their wild love affair. She'd gotten married young, to a Parisian professor of music, in order to escape a life in the French countryside. Once in Paris, she became a famous poet. During the eight years of his affair with Colet, Flaubert wrote his masterpiece Madam Bovary, about a woman who seeks out adulterous affairs in order to escape from provincial life.
On this day in 1846 — 164 years ago today — Flaubert wrote to Colet:
"Separated, destined to see one another but rarely, it is frightful ... and yet what is to be done? I cannot conceive how I managed to leave you ... your image will remain for me suffused with poetry and tenderness, as was last night's sky in the milky vapours of its silvery mist. This month I will come to see you, I will be with you one big whole day [...]
"You are certainly the only woman that I have loved. You are the only woman that I have ventured to wish to please. Thank you, thank you [...]"
The following day, Flaubert began another long intense letter to Colet. In it, he wrote:
"I'll arrive some evening about six. We'll set the night ablaze! I'll be your desire, you'll be mine, and we'll gorge ourselves on each other to see whether we can be satiated. Never! No, never! Your heart is an inexhaustible spring, you let me drink deep, it floods me, penetrates me, I drown. Oh! The beauty of your face, all pale and quivering under my kisses!"
The first letter (Aug. 7, here beginning "Separated, destined" is translated by John Charles Tarver and appears in his Gustave Flaubert as seen in his works and correspondence, published in 1895.
The second letter (Aug. 8, beginning with "My Deplorable mania") is translated by Francis Steegmuller and appears in The Letters of Gustave Flaubert: 1830-1857, published in 1979.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®