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Review of Late Love: poems by Paula Goldman

In Paula Goldman’s Late Love: poems we relive the passage of time that is so eloquently laid out for us in her poems of love and quotidian tasks that in writing about them they have been transferred into crystal balls of unlimited beauty and self-discovery from the husband who accidently leaves “poems on top of the car / before driving off” only for the poems to fly about in the wind to the loves of scents that bring to us all past memories. But then comes the day that we realize that with all memories we must let go while keeping the essence but not allowing it to control our senses.

In Late Love we learn of the meaning of love as a soldier from a marathon comes home “limping from a wound—/ [his] Achilles’ heel smarts.” Yet with “I take you / in my arms and we begin / the day to day battle, the terrible / grinding of years . . . I still love you. What are days for?\” Here it’s as if the blossom of love on the cherry tree passes, but even on a nearly passed over for dead, the cherry tree blooms again, and its fragrance is yet as pungent and sweet with the passage of time.

In this collection we also experience the love of writing as recalled in “You Drew a Blank.” One waits for the muse “to leave myths of goddesses” for one “to spread outdoors.” The fear of not being able to write is the curse of any poet or writer, but Goldman finds topics to paint with words that come from her experience and imagination in art as in “Van Gogh’s Prayer”:

    Leave my heart, black crows,     let me be free, or are they coming,     their cawing calls, to rescue me?

But the loves that the title of this collection celebrates and invokes also point to loss:

                 … knowing     I’d survived. But since you died,     Mom, each loss carves a deeper

    hollow. Waiting for you     to come home from our bloody

    butcher shop, carrying     the wax-papered wrapped meat,

    how we ate, how we thrived. How     the blood flowed into our lives.

Yet graciously in Late Love Goldman, who shares so much with us, leaves us with the essence of life:

    The two of us here under the covers     And I know we have another day of light.     To see the light, one has to see the dark.

Having read these poems in these days of plague and uncertainty, I’d say that Goldman nails life’s kernel of truth: Light.

Late Love: poems by Paula Goldman (Kelsay Books, 2020)

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