Thursday, July 6, 2017

"when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story"

6 July 2017:

"—And when you have forgotten the bright bedclothes on a Wednesday and a Saturday, 
And most especially when you have forgotten Sunday— 
When you have forgotten Sunday halves in bed, 
Or me sitting on the front-room radiator in the limping afternoon 
Looking off down the long street 
To nowhere, 
Hugged by my plain old wrapper of no-expectation 
And nothing-I-have-to-do and I’m-happy-why? 
And if-Monday-never-had-to-come— 
When you have forgotten that, I say, 
And how you swore, if somebody beeped the bell, 
And how my heart played hopscotch if the telephone rang; 
And how we finally went in to Sunday dinner, 
That is to say, went across the front room floor to the ink-spotted table in the southwest corner 
To Sunday dinner, which was always chicken and noodles 
Or chicken and rice 
And salad and rye bread and tea 
And chocolate chip cookies— 
I say, when you have forgotten that, 
When you have forgotten my little presentiment 
That the war would be over before they got to you; 
And how we finally undressed and whipped out the light and flowed into bed, 
And lay loose-limbed for a moment in the week-end 
Bright bedclothes, 
Then gently folded into each other— 
When you have, I say, forgotten all that, 
Then you may tell, 
Then I may believe 
You have forgotten me well." --Gwendolyn Brooks, "when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story"

I heard this poem first thing this morning, listening to this audio version, and kind of took my breath away. You see the ending coming--the title gives it away--but it builds and builds through accretion of detail as this feeling of inevitable loss competes with a sense of hope. The speaker is holding onto the idea that her beloved will not forget these Sundays--she can't imagine that he would--but she's also imagining just that. And the fact that it's a war poem adds more layers of complexity. Stunning.

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