In Pale November
by Marianne Szlyk

when I was Marianne Moore, wearing a black straw hat,
we wandered through the woods he knew too well.

Leafless trees clutched at the faded sky.
Stones and fallen branches littered the ground.

I listened to his youthful harangue
and watched for birds and plants she would have seen,

but it was long past time for even poison ivy
or bittersweet berries. So he and I drifted

until the early dark pooled at our feet
to freeze and trip us like the branches, stones,

and fallen leaves that always cling to pale November.
For years beginning with that month,

having lost my black straw hat
when we fled back to the city he knew too well,

I listened to his middle-aged litany and ignored
the leather-bound books she wove into her poetry,

following the sound of his voice
into and through the woods and out the other side

to the early darkness, the evergreen trees,
the stray cats, the bus stop signs like clenched fists,

to the long ride on empty buses
back to the city he and I knew all too well.

As I walk through Rock Creek Park in November
(no longer living in the city I once knew),

I count syllables the way she did
and try to remember his voice.

PHOTOS: (left) Poet Marianne Moore (1887-1972); (right) the author, poet Marianne Szlyk.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The famous person I am referring to is the poet Marianne Moore (who is infamous for always wearing a black, tricorne hat, quoting her research in her poems, and counting syllables). During my first marriage, I could have taken that name, and I suppose that I might as well have except that it was not done in the circles I ran in. In fact, I chose not to take my first husband’s name as I did not want to be Marianne Moore. I liked her poetry although at times I found that she wore her learning too heavily. I also preferred more personal poetry, like Robert Lowell’s, or less quirky poetry like Elizabeth Bishop’s. However, since I saw the SAME NAME prompt, I have realized that Ms. Moore is more of an influence than I thought, especially now that I write counted verse. Ironically, this poem is not counted verse although it is in couplets. I began it while walking through Rock Creek Park with my poetry group. Looking up at the weak November sun, I remembered the first time I walked in the woods with my then-boyfriend and later husband. My first draft, though, focused on the immediate moment, but as I continued to work on the poem, the past came to the forefront and the present mostly fell away. The couplets remained.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marianne Szlyk is the editor of The Song Is…, an associate poetry editor at Potomac Review, and a professor of English at Montgomery College.  Herr second chapbook, I Dream of Empathy, was published by Flutter Press. Her poems have appeared in a variety of online and print venues, including Silver Birch Press, Long Exposure, Front Porch Review, The Syzygn Poetry Journal, Cactifur, Of/with, bird’s thumb, Yellow Chair Review, Snapping Twig, Eunoia Review, and Taj Mahal Review.Her first chapbook is available through Kind of a Hurricane Press. She hopes that you will consider sending work to her magazine. For more information, visit The Song Is blogzine.