Archive for May, 2015

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Last night I went to bed with Don Draper on my mind (Mad Men fans will understand) and woke up with Rosemary Tonks. Tonks is the eccentric British poet I discovered recently who seems as self-destructive and tortured as Don.

In Sunday’s Mad Men finale, Don has a breakdown at a hippie retreat center and calls his young protégée Peggy for what seems a final goodbye. The coast to coast telephone conversation becomes a confessional. As Don lists his sins, all that’s missing is a “Bless me, Father”:  I broke all my vows, he tells her. I scandalized my child. I took another man’s name. And made nothing of it.

I confess: I like Don and I’ve always rooted for him, even when he was the most jackassy of jackasses. But hearing this litany of failures, I was struck all over again about how much damage he’s done to people who’ve loved him. And that thought brought a Tonks’ poem to mind.

Whether or not Don changes, whether or not anyone in the show really gets a happy ending, ferocious indelible harm has been done. And Tonks is my new favorite spokesperson for damaged people.

Done For!

by Rosemary Tonks

Take care whom you mix with in life, irresponsible one,

For if you mix with the wrong people

– And you yourself may be one of the wrong people –

If you make love to the wrong person,


In some old building with its fabric of dirt,

As clouds of witchcraft, nitro-glycerine, and cake,

Brush by (one autumn night) still green

From our green sunsets…and then let hundreds pass, unlit,


They will do you ferocious indelible harm!

Far beyond anything you can imagine, jazzy sneering one,

And afterwards you’ll live in no man’s land,

You’ll lose your identity, and never get yourself back, diablotin,


It may have happened already, and as you read this…

Ah, it has happened already. I remember, in an old building;

Clouds which had cut themselves on a sharp winter sunset

(With its smoking stove of frosts to keep it cold) went by, bleeding.

Sorry about the dashes I had to insert between stanzas. I’m having trouble with formatting.

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poem is next to red roses

poem is next to red roses

[Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome]

by Christina Rossetti

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my loadstar while I go and come
And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honored name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.


Image 2


I’m lucky this Mother’s Day weekend to be visiting my mother in Maryland, lucky to celebrate this day with her in person for the first time in twenty years at least.


And when one is lucky, one can’t help but think of those who aren’t so lucky. Daughters who will never again celebrate Mother’s Day with their mothers. And mothers who will never again celebrate Mother’s Day with their children.


I was thinking of those mothers in particular when, on a walk near my mother’s house, I came across this tribute to a young man named Noah Marks who died January 1 this year. I gathered from the assembled objects and notes that he was a lovely young man, talented, a lover of baseball and bow ties, theater and running. I also gathered that his death was a suicide.


I thought of his mother, how difficult every day is for her, and how hard this first Mother’s Day without Noah will be. I went back home, printed this poem, and returned to the pedestrian bridge to leave it with the other mementos.


To the mother of Noah Marks and to the wonderful mothers I know who have also lost beautiful young sons to suicide, Happy Mother’s Day. This line of Rossetti’s will surely call up sweet memories of your babies:

To my first love, my Mother

That’s a soul-expanding thought for any mother. And also this:

In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.


Mothers are mothers forever, whether or not children are around to send flowers or take them to brunch. A mother’s love for her children–past, present, and future love, love that will never end–marks her indelibly. Nothing can ever take away the beauty and blessing of that love. It’s a love to be honored and celebrated.


Happy Mother’s Day.



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