For our poetry selections this month we are exploring love. We have invited three poets—Marianne Forman (Part I), Carolyn Grace (Part II), and Jeremy Paden (Part III)— in three separate posts to share their own love poems and to pair culinary delights with a classic love poem. Please welcome our new contributing authors Carolyn Grace and Marianne Forman.  Also, please welcome back our dear friend and contributing author Jeremy Paden.

Marianne Forman’s poetry selections explore romantic love (“Leaning In”), love between friends (“Night Before Your Mastectomy”),  and one of her favorite poems by E.E. Cummings paired with two culinary delights.

Leaning In

Marianne Forman

You leaned toward me
as Amanda Wingfield prattled on
in her organdy trip to bountiful nostalgia
the tilt of your body
filling the space between us
with an intimacy
that is foreign to me.

You leaned toward me
and you were whisper close
in that connected space
that sigh of a time traveler’s memory journey
saying this is between you and me
between us
and I will speak this
only to you
in the darkness of this theatre.

You leaned toward me
between the gentleman caller’s kiss
and his apologetic goodbye.
Your body touched mine
so many places at once
I am overwhelmed by
the muscled curve of your knee
the roundness of your shoulder
the arch of your foot that rests quite casually
on my instep
the way your beard brushes
the side of my cheek
the way your fingers fold into
the palm of my open hand.

You leaned toward me
and I want to carry you
float you
into the jazz curling
through the fire escape.
We are dance close.

You leaned toward me
a Williams tableau
and we are framed in gilded gold
shrouded in Tom’s cigarette trails
echoed through a parlor where the lights have
gone dim
wrapped in the residue of Old Man Wingfield’s
Victrola records
and the thunder-soft glide of Laura’s first dance.

You leaned toward me
and I feel your eyes
through the candelabra
that softens our faces
more benevolent than any paper lantern
and I abandon myself
to you
making promises
you can’t even hear yet
in this tender, forgiving light…

Marianne: “Leaning In” was written right after my partner and I had seen a phenomenal performance of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. Our own growing romance is the subtext as we watched Amanda, Tom, Laura, and the Gentleman Caller work through the many complexities of their relationships.  This poem focuses on the power of a simple and silent touch as we watch the Williams’ drama unfold on the stage before us.

Night Before Your Mastectomy

Marianne Forman

Ever since you told me
that cancer was taking your breasts
I have suspended belief in my own breasts
shelved all feeling, all sensation
to a place over there, away from this body
I call mine.

My breasts became non-existent
as I avoided mirrors,
wanting to be one with you in this loss
in this farewell to the piece of myself
that had nourished four daughters
in rocking chairs, church pews, toilet stalls.

And I thought what I might do tonight
if I knew of the surgeons coming toward me tomorrow.
I would spend time with a mirror,
a long, full-length mirror,
admiring the roundness of my breasts,
touching the softness,
reminding my hands to remember.

I am a touchable painting
not in a frame or an album
but in my own fingertips.
I would notice how my breasts
are only one or two brush strokes
of a Monet impression, water flowers scattered on a pond.

I would remember my nakedness
in a field of lilies
gently blurred
waltzing to wind chimes
with one soft lilac
between my breasts.

Then I would bathe in lavender water
and build castles of fragrant bubbles
on my thighs, my hips, my stomach,
and my breasts.
I would sprinkle warm, lavender water
over and over again on my breasts,
watching the water cry in rivers,
cry in streams,
cry in farewell.

Marianne: The origin of “Night Before Your Mastectomy” is walking alongside a friend from her diagnosis of breast cancer to the night before her mastectomy.  We spent the evening together the night before her surgery.  This poem focuses on my willingness to try to walk inside her skin, to attempt to understand what she is experiencing.

I have always loved E. E. Cummings’s poem, “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” for the poem celebrates love that is all encompassing— from the root to the sky to the sun and moon, even to the very stars.  Cummings captures a universe that will always sing, honoring the beloved.  There is a powerful kindred spiritedness in this poem, which provides both a foundation and a freedom.  It is a world liberated from fear, a world where “I carry your heart(I carry it in my heart).”  This poem celebrates all that is warm and wonderful, and filled with wonder.  It is about the love all of us hope for, the love all of us would like to offer as a gift to our beloved.

Read E.E. Cummings poem [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] and share it with someone you love. You may access it at the link above to the Poetry Foundation. The poem was posted by the Poetry Foundation with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Food pairing:
I would pair “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” with star fruit and mooncakes from China.  For presentation, I would line a cookie sheet with tin foil.  Then, I would cut the star fruit into individual stars and place them in the shape of a tree.  I would hang mooncakes, like blooming fruit, from the branches of the tree.  I would then frame this tableau with sun-dried tomatoes alternated with artichoke hearts.
Marianne Forman taught middle and high school English for 32 years. She is now nurturing her own creative spirit. Retired from the classroom, she occasionally engages in Field Instructor work with various universities, supervising education interns in the classroom. Marianne has also taught classes in Social Coaching for autistic adults. Further, she has spent three summers in Guizhou Province, teaching best practices to teachers in China. She has also received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal (2003) and Turkey (2009). Marianne was recently a finalist in the Wheelbarrow Poetry Prize at Michigan State University. She also won the Poetry Prize and the Genre Prize at Jelly Bucket Literary Magazine, receiving a Summer Residency Award at Eastern Kentucky University (2017). Marianne participated in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop (2016) as well as Anita Skeen’s Narrative Poetry Workshop at Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Further, Marianne received First Place Poetry Prize with ESME (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere). Marianne’s poetry appears in Muddy River Poetry Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, Jelly Bucket Literary Journal, EastLit Magazine, Remembered Arts Journal, Ophelia’s Mom, and Literary Orphans, among others. Most recently, she has poetry published in Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy after 50. Currently, Marianne is a flute playing vocalist, learning to play the ukulele, who is raising four daughters. She shares her life with her partner Scott, whom she met in Istanbul while studying in Turkey.