Though it is claimed that there are now signs of marginal improvement in the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic, the news is still so grim that I continue to distract myself with things that make me laugh. I’ve found that BuzzFeed is a good source for fun stuff, like photos of horrid Frankenstein food mash-ups (literally) that people have concocted while in self-isolation. This morning BuzzFeed showcased some tweets from people humorously bemoaning the way their relationships have careened downhill as they spend more time trapped at home with their partners. (Read them here.)
Some of these were hilarious. But when I stopped laughing and put down my phone, I reflected on how lucky Glen and I are to be self-isolating together. It’s not the first time I’ve thought about it in the month that we’ve been doing this, but today brought a new awareness. I realized that it feels almost as if we’ve spent our entire marriage self-isolating—over 36 years now—so much time have we spent secure in the bubble of our partnership. And I never want it to be otherwise.
I’ve written a number of poems celebrating our marriage, but my favorite is still the one below. I’d shared it with you all for Valentine’s Day several years ago, but it feels to me even more relevant now than it did then. The poem was first published on Jayne Jaudon Ferrer’s website, Your Daily Poem, on February 13th, 2014. It next appeared on March 25th, 2015, on A Year of Being Here, a site of daily mindfulness poetry curated by Phyllis Cole-Dai (now, alas, shut down). Then a few days ago, I was stunned and grateful to learn that the poem has appeared twice on “A Work Day in Hard Times,” a poetry blog from the University of Detroit Mercy, hosted by Fr. John Staudenmaier, S.J. On March 30, 2020, Fr. Staudenmaier re-posted his original remarks that accompanied the poem’s first appearance on his blog and then added this:
“This morning I searched the Poetry List, looking for a March poem that was posted so long ago, that it appeared to my eye and ear as fresh and new, full of surprises. Then too, the story Susan Rooke tells fits our present situation — love without showy extravagances- tender love — enduring love: a song of human intimacy.”
So now I offer this poem for everyone who, like me, has had a comforting, steadying hand to hold. To all of you, in love and gratitude, wherever you are—on this earthly plane, or transcendent on another—and to Glen, my one and only:
A Marriage in the Hands
You make a fist, that I might see
your skin grow tight again,
smoothed across your hand.
Those big hands that you like
to joke are too heavy when carried
all day at the ends of your arms.
Then you relax your hand,
and all the skin relaxes, letting
go the taut shine of youth,
and I see your sacrifice,
the thirty years you’ve held
us close, held my strength
for me, and all your tenderness.
I put my own hand out, relaxed,
palm down, next to yours.
You are aging, so am I, and this
is something we have sworn
always to do as one. Undeniably
I see we have. Then you make
a fist again. I make my own.
As one we smooth the way ahead.