Wednesday, April 18, 2018

`Each One Has Been a Friend'

Eleven years ago I happened on a poem by a poet previously unknown to me that was so good I had to write about it. Maureen Jeffs’ “To My Daughter, My Books” distilled a lot of wisdom and generosity into a small package and it sounded earned, not an empty gesture made public to elicit admiration. Jeffs wrote to thank me and I was touched by her gratitude and the assumption that we belonged to the same tribe – parents and readers.

On Tuesday I picked up the anthology in which I found Jeffs’ poem, It’s Her Voice That Haunts Me Now (1996), and read it again. Then I looked online to see if she had continued writing and discovered that Maureen Jeffs had died in 2015. The internet, among its other gifts, makes it possible to feel guilty and sad over the death of someone on another continent whom we never met. Think about that for a moment. I experienced a pang of guilt for not staying in touch with someone who seemed remarkably thoughtful and interesting. And now we’ll never have that permanently deferred conversation.      

Her website, perhaps created by the daughter addressed in the poem, is a fine tribute and preserves some of her poems and stories. As Jeffs writes in the closing lines of “To My Daughter, My Books”:

“Take them and use
Them well, each one has been a friend,
And may the truths you find console.
In these, and in the books I’ve penned,
You’ll find the substance of my soul.”

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