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Original Poem: "Lovers in The Poet's Garden, Arles 1888"

Updated on March 21, 2019
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Writing poetry became my major composing activity circa 1962, and Mr. M. M. Sedam's creative writing class in 1963-64 deepened my interest.

The Poet's Garden, Arles 1888

Source

Introduction and Text of Poem

The poem is an American (or Innovative) sonnet based on the traditional Petrarchan or Italian sonnet. It features two quatrains and a sestet (or an octave and a sestet), but without rime and without the customary rhythm of the traditional Italian sonnet.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

Lovers in The Poet's Garden, Arles 1888

He says, 'now we are holding hands, no longer separated,'
She hesitates, 'yes,' and her palm moistens, a palm that
Was ice cold only a moment ago, she wants him, she's
Sure of that, but she has a husband, God, what can she

Say to make this right? maybe she has no husband at all—
Maybe she is only 18 and still a virgin—no, decades
And children have filled her pages, but he is young,
Much younger than she is, and he is not a virgin,

'I am staying at this address,' he hands her the address,
'She will not return for six weeks, we can meet there, alone,
If you like,' 'I like, I will meet you there,' she is not shy,
His hat covers his head, and please notice that the faces
Are not distinguishable, let's keep it that way for her family
And for her who will return to him in six weeks.

Commentary

My original poem is inspired by Vincent van Gogh's "The Poet's Garden, Arles 1888."

First Quatrain: The First Lover Speaks

He says, 'now we are holding hands, no longer separated,'
She hesitates, 'yes,' and her palm moistens, a palm that
Was ice cold only a moment ago, she wants him, she's
Sure of that, but she has a husband, God, what can she

The first lover voices to his paramour the fact that they are now “holding hands”— altering the reader that this relationship is quite new and the hand-holding stage has now been reached. She is nervous yet obviously anticipating each new step.

Her hands begin to sweat, the extreme opposite of “only a moment ago” when her hands were icy cold. She is willing for this relationship to progress, but then a sticky thought pokes into her rain: she is married and she begins to wonder.

Second Quatrain: Her Admissions

Say to make this right? maybe she has no husband at all—
Maybe she is only 18 and still a virgin—no, decades
And children have filled her pages, but he is young,
Much younger than she is, and he is not a virgin,

She asks how to “make this right” — knowing full well that the only way to do that is not to do what she is about to do. But instead fleeing the adulterous scene, she begins to fantasize that she is not really married, that she is only an 18 year old virgin.

Suddenly, snapped back to reality, she admits she is decades past virginity, and she even has children. But her lover is young though he is also not a virgin.

Sestet: The Assignation

'I am staying at this address,' he hands her the address,
'She will not return for six weeks, we can meet there, alone,
If you like,' 'I like, I will meet you there,' she is not shy,
His hat covers his head, and please notice that the faces
Are not distinguishable, let's keep it that way for her family
And for her who will return to him in six weeks.

The young adulterer hands to older adulteress the address of the place where they may meet to climb the stairway to the next step in their coupling. And he reveals that he also has a mate. But his mate is away for the next six weeks. He tells her they can meet at that address to be “alone.” And then adds, “If you like.” She likes and tells him she will meet him there; she is not shy.

The poet then draws the reader’s attention to the painting, how the man’s hat “covers his head” and that the faces are not clear for either of the guilty pair. The poet then asks that everyone keep the identity of the pair secret for sake of the woman’s family and the young man’s partner "who will return to him in six weeks."

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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