I must have been 18 when I started the book. I must have been a freshman in college. I know this because the poem on the first page is from my father. It's called "Shuly's Seas." He wrote it to me after I had a particularly painful breakup from my first college boyfriend during my freshman year. It was a poem about power and courage and moving on.
The book started as a blank book with a hardback cover but over the years became a sort of personal history. It is a collection of poems—written by other people—that I cut out from magazines and pasted into its pages, or that I copied down in blue or black ink, in my own handwriting. The book holds all the poems I have ever liked from my 18th year until now. Which means it holds a part of me. I lugged it to every place I ever lived: each dim or sunny apartment, that one small room in a house, and the one 850-square-foot condo I bought when married and sold when single. The book has outlasted other items I used to carry through the years: high-heeled shoes, a pine kitchen table, the green futon, a handful of relationships, and so many things I thought I wanted to keep, that I realized only later were better left behind.
I still pick up the book and read the poems I kept of Mary Oliver, Denise Levertov, Margaret Atwood—as well as those of poets I love as people, including my father. As I turn the pages, I remember the chapters of my own life. Some poems I no longer like so much, but others have endured as my favorites.
"Tandem" is one of them.
About ten years ago, I read "Tandem" by Curt Rode in The Sun Magazine (June 2006, Issue 366). I immediately looked for the poet and his email, and I wrote him a note telling him how much I liked his poem. There was no question it was going in my book. Now, nearly a decade later, I cannot tell you the number of times I have read it out loud to myself, or read it out loud to someone else. What I can tell you is that every time I do, the poem moves me enough to make me cry.
Thank you, Curt Rode, for giving me permission to post this poem on my blog in honor of National Poetry Month, but thank you even more for writing the poem in the first place. Here it is, straight from my book of poems.