Back in 1998, when my husband was ill, I checked several books out of the library thinking that I could read one of them aloud to him while he was in ICU after his surgery. You know, to pass the time.
So sitting there in ICU, after they'd cracked my husband's skull open and removed part of his brain, I opened one of the books and a bookmark fell out. The bookmark had a poem titled "A Locked House" by WD Snodgrass printed on it. The poem is about this couple coming home and he has this moment of anxiety that something might have happened to their house while they were away. That they are too lucky, things are too good. The end of the poem on the bookmark was this:
Everything we own
Can burn; we know what counts—some such
Idea. We said as much.
It was so beautiful to me. It summed up exactly how I felt at the time. That I'd give up everything else, the house, the cars, everything could burn as long as we were together. It meant so much to me, I had a friend read the poem at my husband's memorial service.
I ran across the bookmark the other day (yes, I still have it) and decided to look up the poet and maybe read some other poems by Snodgrass. I found "A Locked House" also. Get this. It turns out the poem has TWO MORE STANZAS . That's right. Two stanzas not printed on that bookmark. And those two stanzas are about how the marriage fell apart and the house is still standing!
The house still stands, locked, as it stood
Untouched a good
Two years after you went.
Some things passed in the settlement;
Some things slipped away. Enough’s left
That I come back sometimes. The theft
And vandalism were our own.
Maybe we should have known.
I would like to find the asshat who decided only to print part of the poem on that bookmark and bitch slap him or her across the room. Preferably a big room. I cannot tell you how betrayed I feel that this poem that I HAD A FRIEND READ AT MY HUSBAND'S FUNERAL is not about the primacy of connection and union between two people, but is instead about a bitter divorce.
Anyway, I'm not sure what my point is. Don't trust bookmarks? Check the source material? Print the whole thing? I just had to vent about this somewhere and was darn happy to have a place to do it.