Jason Stemple



Jane Yolen, ('60) known as the "Hans Christian Andersen of America," is the author of almost 300 books, from board books and picture books for the youngest children, to fairy tales, poetry, and novels for older children. She has written several adult novels as well, and had two books of adult poetry published--AMONG ANGELS, with Nancy Willard (Harcourt) and THE RADIATION SONNETS (Algonquin). A storyteller and a poet, she has been an editor with her own line of books, and taught a course in children's books for seven years at Smith. She has six honorary doctorates, including one from Smith College, all given for her literary accomplishments.

 

 

 

 

Jane Yolen '60

 

Parts of Speech

This is my husband lying in the bed.
This was my husband lying in the bed.
I am having trouble
with even the simplest of verbs.
By was do I mean he is dead
even though I can see a shallow bird breath
beating beneath the cage of his chest bones?
Or am I remembering
a taller man, straight-backed,
who drew his oxygen right from the air?

This is my husband lying in the bed.
Lying is an interesting word,
Meaning prone
or prone to untruths
like a beautiful woman
who lies because she can,
not because she has to.
Besides, he may be laying down not lying,
a part of speech I have never gotten right,
no matter how many poems I have written.

This is my husband lying in the bed.
Why do we say in,
as he is stuffed inside the mattress,
a feather of a man,
"a cloud in trousers", as he often quoted to me,
as we lay together on the squeaky brass bed,
which is how I became
acquainted with Mayakovsky.
And now my old cloud,
you are so thin and twisty,
it hurts to lie beside you.

This is my husband lying in the bed.
How proprietal that my looks,
out of place with the rest of the sentence,
as if forty-six years with him
gives me a kind of ownership.
One cannot own this man
anymore than one can own a wild bird,
that places its allegiance
to wind and sky and sometimes,
sometimes,
to a single mate.