Margaret Gibson's 'Broken Cup'

Hartford Courant
This month's CT Poet Corner captures the sadness of Alzheimer's disease and the fragility of love

EDITOR'S NOTE: Welcome to CT Poet's Corner, a monthly feature highlighting poetry by Connecticut authors.

This month's poem by Margaret Gibson captures not only the sadness of Alzheimer's disease and the fragility of love, but also love's strength, its "ongoingness." Selected from her 12th book, "Broken Cup,'' the poem exemplifies the emotional depth and lyrical resonance that make Gibson one of the country's preeminent poets. Gibson lives in Preston.

Rennie McQuilkin, CT Poet Laureate

BROKEN CUP

I've forgotten how it broke, the great cause

or the petty cause that cracked the handle

into two pieces and left me without

a cup for morning coffee. In the cabinet

there were others of white porcelain,

with steeply elegant lines, cups that matched

their saucers. But my cup was Mexican,

squat, and as round as Rivera's peasant

bent before the wall of callas

he carried on his back, his burden of blossoms.

Hand-painted, my cup was carnival

purple and yellow, flowers that honored earth,

birth, death, geometry, symmetry, riot

good sex, good coffee, the sun rising hot.

I banished it, broken, to my desk and used it

for paperclips. Now I've rescued it, fit

and glued the pieces back together.

Still I'm afraid to lift it, even to wash it by hand

in hot water — it is that fragile.

You brought the cup to me from Puerto Vallarta,

that seaside trip you took to help

your daughter past heartbreak — a little hotel

by the sea, with bougainvillea

and a great deal on cocktails as the sun

rolled its dying splendor onto the Pacific.

I think I was jealous; I was jealous. I hoped

you drank margaritas and missed me —

most likely Dos Equis with a squirt of lime.

The cup gave me Mexico each morning,

on the cheap. I loved it. I loved it,

it broke. I ignored it, I cast it aside

sounds like a classic sitcom-bad marriage.

Sounds like the wary caregiver who reads

The Thirty-Six Hour Day, heart empty.

Who really wants to know about this despair?

I have minimizing friends who tell me,

It's not so bad — just a little accelerated

forgetting, such as we all have these days.

O Ancient of Days, that was once a name

for God, for something so deep within the self

it's beyond us. Even so, it is possible,

I want to tell them, to love what is broken.

Possible, urgent, and necessary.

And so for love of thee and me,

I take my broken cup and set it down

before me on a yellow place mat. I make

toast with ginger jam and real butter,

coffee whose beans have flourished

on a mountain in Peru, I hope near Machu Picchu.

I sit down in my Japanese bathrobe,

in my Navajo beads, with bare feet; I sit

without ire or envy, without fear or despair,

and drink and eat. Slowly. Very slowly,

savoring all I can remember of that first

night we met, the good talk, the dancing

until we were too tired to do anything else

but take the dancing to bed — the miracle

of unintended meeting, the first of what

was to be years of meeting, moments

I hope to remember when I lie down to die,

my beautiful love, your head of unruly hair

and unruly thoughts unraveling

into a silence that will lengthen . . . or may

break off, as this handle did, in two pieces.

Who knows how love will hold, or if we will

ever be all right. Who knows what wrong

tastes like or how much emptiness the cup

will hold as we share it — who knows?

And if it is the cup of suffering,

drink it down — or better, may it pass from you,

and you live easy and go gently

where you will, or where you must. I'll go

with you, grateful for plum-colored flowers

so close to bruising, coffee, sunlight, earth;

the journeys we took together — and the long one

left us to walk until we lie down near

clear water, shade trees, green pasture.

In that place, there will be nothing unspoken,

nothing forgotten or feared. Day or night,

whatever the hour, it will be all shining,

our whole and broken bodies full of light.

Copyright © 2014 by Margaret Gibson

CT Poet Laureate Rennie McQuilkin selects work for CT Poet's Corner by invitation: antrimhouse@comcast.net

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