Balance and Rest

BACK IN THE OLD DAYS, when women feathered their hair back Farrah-style and wore pants so tight at the waist no one dared grow a muffin top, I had a shy student named Michael who sat smack in the first row but spoke almost not at all. I had his sister in a second class and his brother in a third. There were six kids in his family and didn’t their mom come to every Parents Night to see how they were doing.

The years passed as years do and in time this shy lad moved out of state, becoming in time a husband and a father, a bookseller and librarian, even as he kept on writing the same wonderful stories and poems he was writing when he was 16 and had me as his English teacher.

Happily, we have kept in enough touch over time so that he one day showed some of my writing to that mother of his. She and I wrote each quite frequently for a while and someplace in there she sent me a thick packet of verse by the person she called her favorite poet.

The poet’s name: Louise Guyol Owen, a woman born in 1901 who graduated from Smith College in 1923 and subsequently sold her witty and insightful verse to publications ranging from The Saturday Evening Post to The Mercury, from The Ladies Home Journal to The Christian Science Monitor.

I mention all this because just last night, after a spare solo supper, I decided to do a bit of cleaning and came upon this very packet of poems at the bottom of a drawer I have not looked in for almost a decade.

Alone in my bed at midnight, I read every one again, while the wind whistled and moaned outside.

The poem below seems to be about a cat, but it speaks to us humans too.

I can tell you it sure speaks to me.

It’s called “Still the Hunter Follows” and it goes like this:

Be lazy, mind; be lazy for an hour. Lie by the fire, and stretch, and close your eyes,

Untense the fine-drawn nerves; be tired, be wise;

Sheathe the small swords that give your paw its power.

Cease your nocturnal wailing a the moon –

Forget the picket fence’s dangerous height –

Idle a little, while you can, tonight;

This opiate moment will be gone too soon.

The red flames flicker. Restless and unrested,

Your head lifts up; your yellow eyes grow narrow…

Long enough respite for the nested sparrow,

For mouse and mole to scurry unmolested!

Steal out, resume your hunt, pursue forever

Your hurrying prey, but never hope to find

Satiety; and satisfaction never –

Never for the hungry predatory mind.

This weekend I would very much like to tell my own mind to be lazy and, for a little while anyway, reclaim some sense of balance.

Maybe that former student will see his mother’s favorite poet here and bring this to her, wherever she may be. I will hope for that, even as I hope that we might all use these two days to once again feel newly balanced, and nicely re-aligned.

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8 thoughts on “Balance and Rest

  1. …and selling them somewhere, or passing them off as theirs! I noted two years after my first book came out that it had been reprinted in a large print edition wholly without my knowing about it. hmmmm.
    I do feel the compliment here Joan and I thank you for it . 🙂

  2. Louise Guyol Owen was my aunt, my father’s sister. I know she would be very pleased to learn of your appreciation, and I thank you on her behalf. She died more than a dozen years ago.

    As a teen I acquired a volume of her work (a part of The Yale Series of Younger Poets, entitled “Virtuosa, A Book of Verse,” published in 1930). My favorite quickly became “Sonnet to an Architect” (her husband, Harold Owen, was an architect), with the last line reading “nothing can outlast the stubborn frailty of the human heart.”

    1. Oh I am so glad to hear from you Nathalie! I looked for that book online and am considering buying it from Amazon (for a mere $26!)

      I too am a Smith girl but that isn’t why. Last night I read every single poem Mrs. Dwyer had sent me and I must have more! So lovely that you knew her as you must have. Such a lovely last line you quote here too!

      Thanks again so much for taking the time…

  3. Louise Guyol Owen (not Owens) (b. 1901 d. 1995) is my maternal grandmother. I’m delighted to stumble across someone who has read and appreciates her poetry.

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