I spent the new year in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It’s a week-long poetry workshop run by two sisters, Jennifer Clement, poet, writer and current President Pen Mexico and Barbara Sibley, artist, poet and chef/restaurateur of La Palapa, NYC. Over ten years ago they started this intimate, intelligent workshop in this mountain city in the middle of Mexico. Many who attend come every year, and some have come consistently since its conception.
This was my second year. It was hard and it was good and it was magical because it in Mexico, a country and people I just love. The tone of this community of poets who work together, either as participants or faculty, is set by Jennifer and Barbara to be inclusive which is why one returns. Like the perfect summer camp, we gather from all over the place and squeal with delight and hug and say “How are you?” And really mean it when we say it. We welcome the newbies. We welcome back the ones who’ve been away awhile.
This year Jennifer left our band of troubadours to work on her MFA in frozen tundra of Maine. . .we cheered her on. The night before her departure a bunch of us went to dance and sing karaoke. I got up with a friend, Christina, she wanted a partner to sing “House of the Rising Sun”. What the heck. I know I can sing but never this way. We had fun. She was thrilled. When we came back to our seats, her husband Laszlo exclaimed, “You are SO sexy when you sing! That was wonderful” and he kissed his wife. I said thank you. We wandered back to the hotel, down the narrow, cobbled street singing still and lighthearted.
That was Wednesday. I saw Christina and Laszlo here and there, hello and good-byes, or over glasses of wine. They carried with them the air of a happy couple, settled in love, something dear and lasting. They were interesting to look at, she with her leggy, pale Englishness and he, emitting that salt of the earth glow. They fit together.
Today I heard that Laszlo died of heart failure. I was sent a note down the pipe of social networks. Oh and my heart hurts for her. I first went out to kiss my husband to make sure he was still there. Then I told him it was Laszlo’s voice that carried me through my audition yesterday for “America’s Got Talent”. After a morning of being moved around like cattle (hence the term: cattle call) when it was finally time to step up and sing, alone, a capella, I heard him and sang with confidence.
My heart goes out to Christina and offer this song to her. I have been close to death and the dying. I cannot imagine return home without my husband. I cannot imagine, do not want to imagine a world I must negotiate with out him. And in the one week I had to see and know him, seven days, how blessed I am for these memories. I pray she has a trunk full of them. . .and that they give her comfort as best a memory can.
“Requiem” written and performed by Eliza Gilkyson