written in lilac ink

by Margaret Hemme
The Waters
Third Place, January 2016
Judged by Lee Slonimsky

written after finally visiting you
at the sanatorium. written
to apologize for not introducing you
to any of my college friends
because of that seldom off stocking cap,
the army coat. written to remind
myself you were my lover, friend.

not written to reprimand you
for your refusal of all help, not taking
medication, never trying not to be
obsessed with germs, gloves, the need
of anything that is cost free. written
in the color of old love. written
in guilt. it won’t let me come again.

An intense poem of self-acknowledgement and regret, of insight one wishes one had had at an earlier time. The poem makes superb use of the details of reminiscence. And in a mere fourteen lines we learn of a youthful love, a bit of a mental illness that ended in a sanitorium. We also learn (partly inferred from the phrase “written/in the color of old love. written/in guilt”) of the fleeting nature and rarity of such love, any love, never handled at the time the way it should have been. --Lee Slonimsky