Poems for the Summer Solstice – 1st in a Series -Don’t Leave Before You Leave – A Poetic Reminder by Barb Pelman

Victoria-based poet, Barbara Pelman

Why is it I think only of the light
Leaving? Soon, after the longest day
We head toward the dark. “Don’t leave
Before you leave”, the wise poet tells us,
But I have already packed my bags,
changed my address, ordered the taxi.

Barbara Pelman, unpublished, with permission, 2018

The upcoming summer solstice has been on my mind a lot lately. Not only because it is my 67th birthday but because of my love/hate relationship with June 21st. No mistake: I do love this longest daylight day of the year. But I have let a sadness creep in to my enjoyment of the day. Instead of celebrating the day’s glory of lasting light I grieve over the shorter days that begin the next day.

This is why I am so grateful for Barb Pelman’s occasional poem which landed in my inbox this morning. It was written in response to an early morning poem of mine and also other poems she and I have written along with poems of three other poets. The five of us, known in some circles as The Bellingham Five for a similar interlaced reading we gave in Bellingham last December, have been collecting and connecting our individual poems to celebrate the summer solstice (poems of light and dark) for a reading at Planet earth Poetry a week tonight in Victoria. If you are nearby be sure to come to hear interlaced poems by myself, Barb, Terry Ann Carter, Susan Alexander and Linda Thompson.

Barb’s poem with its wonderful quote from a “wise poet”: Don’t leave before you leave, is such a great reminder. And now I think I hear the voice of that poet! Perhaps Patrick Lane at one of his retreats on the Saturday evening encouraging us to stay in retreat mode until it ended the next day at noon!

Regardless of who said it I needed to hear that quote in Barb’s poem today. I needed to remember to enjoy the next days leading up to the 21st. To slow down inside them. To cherish even now the light outside my window at 8:14 PM. Light that will only fade to black in about two hours!

For those of you not familiar with Barb she is a much-celebrated Vancouver Island poet with three full length collections to her credit including her latest volume Narrow Bridge published by Ronsdale Press of Vancouver in 2017.

And in 2016 she published a delightful chapbook through Rubicon Press out of Red Deer, Alberta. That book, Aubade Amalfi – The Marcello poems, is based on her phantom lover Marcello! He came to life when Barb missed a ferry to the island of Ischia offshore Naples a few years ago while on a writing retreat. She had to find her own accommodation in Naples that night before catching the ferry the next day! Out of that mishap came a wonderful poem (which won the 2014 B.C. Federation of Writers’ Poetry Award)  to explain what “really” happened.

Most recently Barb won the Malahat Review’s 2018 Open Season Award for poetry for a glossa, Nevertheless, based on a W.S. Merwin poem. If you come to Planet earth Poetry on the 22nd you will hear her read it! For the interview about this poem in the Malahat Review please click here.

But in the meantime here is the “real” story of why Barb missed her ferry a few years ago in Italy!

The Better Story

And if there had been a lover, an old friend she hadn’t seen in thirty years
sitting at La Caravelle sipping limoncello—
if she had called his name and he had turned,
and if she had gone to his room,
followed him up the maze of tunneled streets
through the red door tucked in the shadows—

 and if he hd taken off all her layers of doubt,
stretched his muscian’s  hands
to the skin of her, and they had spread their lives
on the patio, and he offered her wine
fro the steep vineyards of Amalfi,
a little pasta, a long afternoon under the lemo trees,
an orange sunrise over the hills of Capri.

 And wasn’t this the best of Italy.

And didn’t she finally return safe,
a story in her pocket, something to tell her friends—
the smell of lemon and jasmine on the morning wind,
Marcello sipping his expresso, if he was still there,
if he was ever there?

Barbara Pelman, Aubade Amalfi – the Marcello poems, Rubicon Press, 2016

One Comment

  1. Posted June 16, 2018 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Don’t leave before you leave is such good advice from our mentor and friend Patrick Lane. I heard his voice in Barbara’s poem as well! And isn’t her “The Better Story” delightful! Happy birthday coming up Richard with love and blessings.

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