Literature 7-7-2008

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Brenda Hellen

This week's winning What Light poem, "After Forty Years of Marriage" by Brenda Hellen, was selected by Katrina Vandenberg. PLUS: submit your own original poetry to the What Light contest! (Deadline July 19)


After Forty Years of Marriage

Love, you decide, is as simple as childhood—
not simple at all. You are at someone else’s
mercy or intolerance, so must find solace
in picking berries, the curving silence of a road home,
a pony rolling in the dust, and later the coffee and pie.
On the nights when these are not enough, and
forty years together seem a raging mistake,
when all that stands between you and another
life is the climbing of the stairs to a suitcase,
deer will come to feed on the acorns in your yard
and together you will name them: Verna
with a scarred left leg, dark patch on one ear;
Bucker an eight pointer, Rhoda swayback and thin,
and the fawns, fearful of the yard light,
you wait to name until they are grown.


I wrote this poem for my parents. I could think of nothing else to give them for their 40th anniversary. As for writing, if I can’t write anything new, I revise the old. Karl Shapiro wrote that a poet “sees what others have forgotten how to see.” I suppose I work at seeing, and in poems try to preserve what might otherwise be missed or forgotten.


Brenda Hellen says, ” I received my MFA from MN State U-Mankato in 2003, but also have honorary degrees in diaper changing, fussy-baby soothing techniques, and swing pushing. I live with my husband and three kids in Belle Plaine, Minnesota.”