Long Love and Jim Harrison’s ‘Carpe Diem’
After learning a Ted Kooser poem by heart in January, I had to respond in February with a Jim Harrison, because the two poets were good friends. I knew immediately which Harrison poem I wanted, but I couldn’t remember the title. Simply Googling “Jim Harrison poem convertible” brought this one right up. It’s a poem for long love — in this case, love of 50 years.
The poem is at The Writer’s Almanac.
Even though I’ve been married almost 31 years, I don’t write a lot of love poetry, don’t know how to convey such love in words. This poem says everything I wish I knew how to say.
It begins and ends with what is likely the closing of the lives and therefore the love of these two people. In the middle is the glorious day when they fell in love “together.” The poem leaves out everything in between — the mess, the misunderstandings, the shouts, and the tears. I like that about it. (Leave that to other poets.) Harrison is all about moonlight on mountain snow, “the year’s last tomato,” and (be still my heart) that “sack of red apples.” Our man fell out of a tree, fell in love, and is close to falling asleep for good. Where he once was “grabbing,” now he holds and not him alone — “we hold each other.”
The word “look” is repeated at the beginning and ending of the poem. At the beginning the grizzlies (a representation of our couple?) “look for a place / for the winter’s sleep” and at the end, when they are holding each other, they are also “looking / out the windows at birds.” The season is about to change. This is the time of “the year’s fatal whirl.” But oh! What a whirl it has been!
a live to live day after day, a life of
dogs and children and the far wide country
out by rivers, rumpled by mountains.
So far the days keep coming.
What is there to do with such beauty?
seize the day, also the night —
[throw] ourselves / into the future together seizing the day
Seize the day gently as if you loved her.
Hey, fellow grizzly who shares this home with me. I don’t know what “birth” after sleep looks like anymore than I knew what “a live to live day after day” would look like after our first dance on the tennis courts at camp. I didn’t know “It was the birth of love that year.” I know now that “Overtrying makes it harder.” So give me your hand and we’ll seize this “handful of water to grasp.” We’ll do so “gently.” We’ll do it “Night and day” until there are no more shining days and nights left for us.
My only regret is that you sold your convertible.
I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro