It took almost four years before I could
watch her favorite drama—Law and Order—
dry-eyed. I don’t watch much TV but with her
I sometimes did. For three years if I heard
in passing that theme tune it was a sudden
knife and the wetness started and I changed
the channel quick. Now that’s all rearranged
and when I hear that duh-duh-duh-duh-dun
I watch and she is in the room with me:
Order restored by magic of TV.
Her other favorite, figure skating—
summer is safe, winter another thing.
Looking for a football game the other night,
I passed the ice-skaters, paused, saw ice-light,
heard that music, watched those moves, then the melt
started and she who hated cold and snow
was next to me in TV’s sacral glow—
calling the moves, holding her breath, then yelling
at the judges’ scores. During one Winter Games
she called all the skaters by their names
then said so-and-so knows how to love the ice
her double-axels triple-toe loops—real grace
and nothing touches her outside death spiral.
She loved the gravity and grace, the fire,
the dance of law and order on the ice,
the disciplined transformation that sufficed
to get her through the hardest longest winters.
Wet-eyed with loss, I’m just a beginner.
But maybe by the next Winter Olympics
I’ll grasp and drink from her spiral-alembic.
We never skated but we did it all with fire
backward forward inside outside death spiral
H. R. Stoneback (BA Rutgers-Camden 1965; PhD Vanderbilt 1970) is Distinguished Professor of English at the State University of New York (New Paltz). He has also been a Visiting Professor at the University of Paris, a Senior Fulbright Professor at Peking University (Beijing, China) and the Saint-John Perse Fellow of the French-American Foundation in Aix-en-Provence. An internationally renowned poet and literary critic, he is the author of more than 200 essays on such authors as Lawrence Durrell, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Robert Penn Warren and numerous other poets and writers. He has published (as author or editor) more than 30 books, roughly half literary criticism, and half books of his poetry. His book, Reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, the inaugural volume in the Kent State University Press Reading Hemingway Series—nominated for several prestigious awards (the Brooks-Warren Award, the SAMLA critical studies award, etc.)—is widely used in university courses and placed on the short list of recommended critical studies for the national Agrégation Examination in France. His award-winning poetry has been published in scores of journals in the U.S. and abroad. Recent volumes of poetry include Why Athletes Prefer Cheerleaders & Other Poems, Voices of Women Singing, and Amazing-Grace-Wheelchair-Jumpshot-Jesus-Love-Poems. Forthcoming books include three volumes of poetry, The Stones of Strasbourg, My Boardwalk Empire, and a cycle of Pennsylvania Poems; forthcoming critical volumes include Hemingway’s Provence: Our Provence? (a meditation on the Spirit of Place and Hemingway’s symbolic landscapes), Passions, Places, Pilgrimages: Selected Essays on Hemingway 1976-2013, and Composition of Place: Selected Essays on Elizabeth Madox Roberts; other works-in-progress include The Stoney & Sparrow Songbook; Volume One (a collection of his songs with commentary) and volumes of memoir and fiction. He currently serves as an officer of several literary organizations in the U.S. and France; in 2013-2014 he is Vice-President (President in 2015) of the South Atlantic Modern Language Association, a national/international organization of more than 2,000 writers and scholars. He has been the organizer and director of more than 35 literary conferences in the U.S. and abroad. Among his numerous honors and awards, he cites only his 2013 gubernatorial commission as a Kentucky Colonel—and wonders what benefits (such as certain legendary products of Kentucky) accompany his colonel’s commission.