Life In One Breath by Mary Lou Meyers

Note: This is a new poem by my classmate, Mary Lou, whose new book of poems is in the works. Because I went through divorce as an older woman (early 50s), her poem resonates for me. Maybe it does for you, as well, if you also went through divorce at midlife. I have posted some flowers for added beauty to the already beautiful poem.

I have lived long enough to taste vintage everything
from wine impressed on our lips on our wedding day, put away
to resurrecting clothes that were once the newest rage
to the silver setting my mother gave
to help me wait, a bribery
instead of a hasty wedding date
while my fiance was home on holiday leave.
In time it tarnished like my hair and face,
though silvered with care and grace
till erased by the grandchildren,
a girl who said, “my hair is the same color as yours,”
though burnished gold, but she bounced on my knee,
“huppa, huppa Reiterlein!, free to be a rider of destiny.
Men were the beginning and end in that long ago,
my mother nourished me, but we geared our lives
to the coming and going of working men’s traffic.
My father learned to bend, my mother learned to amend
and circumvent, I learned to reinvent my own sense of being,
writing saved for me alone,
a mosaic of tiny-shatterings.
Conscience-raising was something other women did, I had three kids,
two resourceful boys, a sought-after daughter, not an after-thought.
We are all imbued with bits and pieces of truth when pulled together
form a quilt of unified wills on route to liberation.
I’ve lived long enough to remember World War II years
when everyone seemed to be on the same side of sacrifice and victory,
Rosy the Riveter bonafide with rationing to curb our appetites.

I’ve lived long enough to know disappointment,
but grow out of it, to find
beyond the fears and tears of every day,
something unexpectedly rare will come along
as long as we are ready for it.
I’ve lived long enough to learn
that what i’ve yearned for at the rainbow’s edge
was an illusion that has no real worth, unless I achieve it myself.
I’ve lived long enough to learn along the way,
to meet children more than half way,
and grandchildren, divide myself in as many pieces as they need to,
accomplish whatever deeds they believe in,
and find me worthy enough to need them
as I once did their fathers and aunt before them.
It would grieve me to think I missed the ship
which catapulted them into accomplishment.
Silver and gold anniversarys come and go, star-cast events,
I put it altogether in memories as vital as a song
to carry me along the rest of my life
as bold as my soul on awakening.

Now the candles on the birthday cake crowd out the icing
until there is little to say except “birthdays come and go,”
but the only thing I really know is that life is a continuum,
except when you shut down, so you might as well stay around
long enough to save all those crammed poems and notes on envelopes
to write the story of a lifetime which is made of so many tidbits,
smiles and frowns, upside downs, and right side ups
which is the way I always try to land no matter the circumstances.
I’ve lived long enough to experience life in one breath,
to taste the pure and unadulterated, not the genetically-modified,
to treat the new day as a gift I loathe to relinquish.
I’ve lived long enough to understand what “tip of the tongue,” means,
when it never comes, but what I fear most is weakening of will power,
the leaking of brightness from my eyes.
I’ve lived long enough to say ruination can come and go in a day,
but mind, body, and spirit must be fully inclined the same way.

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