Jane Mayhall died on March 17 at the age of 90. Her most recent volume of poems, Sleeping Late on Judgment Day, her first full-length collection, was published when she was 85 years old. This poem is one of several she wrote about the inconsolable sorrow of love following the death of her husband died in 1997. She was partnered with Leslie George Katz for most of her life.
Speaking to the personal rather than the larger poetic arc, Jane’s relationship with Katz is an extraordinary story. She was 17 when she met him as a fellow student at the infamous Black Mountain College. They lived in the New York City’s art scene of the 50s—the bohemian years when coffee house culture flourished, everybody wore black and imitated the continental flaneur, smoked cigarettes and listened to poetry and jazz til dawn.
See how easy it is to be seduced by all the romantic notions associated with that period of time? But I am also admittedly partial to the concept of the feature length marriage. It’s a rare thing, a point of fascination for me. Fascination, and emulation.
The Gilded Shadow
The impact is simmering down, as into
a solvent liquid. That I’ll never hear your voice
again, but through a medium like
rain. Or will see you but in a lightning flash.
You are nature’s speech, the young girth
and deadly imprint.
I eagerly wait the date of your rebirth, in
the endless window-sky. Hovering cloud, really a
gilded shadow that lights your face outline. Waters
and land permit no elegy translated.
But a stark villanelle, facts rendered.
An indefinite, glorious seeding,
the element that draws us closest. Nucleus of
a meadow, the grass-tips’ ghost your
being. Bend me to earth, the only hereafter after death.
O shades beneath the sun. Or I don’t understand it —
like embracing a mystery hole in our minds,
this complex, heartbreak survival.
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