My Poetry Corner April 2017 features “Another Love Poem: Even in Hell” by American poet, Angela Consolo Mankiewicz (1944-2017). Born in Brooklyn, New York, she moved – against her will – with her parents to Los Angeles at the age of fourteen. But the gods had other plans for her. In 1968, her path crossed that of Richard Mankiewicz, twelve years older, and altered the course of her life.
In “Writing Down the Words” (Istanbul Literary Review, September 2011 Edition), Angela ruminates:
I wonder if I will curse my father
for the even fewer words he said to me
of any value: have you considered the age difference?
Yes, I said, but nothing can be done about that.
No, he said, and it does not matter today,
but may when he’s older. Yes, I said,
but nothing can be done about that either.
No, he said. The end of my father’s wisdom,
the end of his words.
Angela entwined [her] words with Richard in February 1972. For both, it was their second marriage. Years later, when Richard was diagnosed with Paget’s disease, Angela’s world was shaken. In “Not Yet Grief” (from her collection, Cancer Poems, published in 1995), she laments:
Someone’s here with me, in this house, in your chair,
in our bed, but it isn’t you. Anymore. It’s you
dying… Who do I run to if not to you? Bearing
this doom that is not yet grief, rumbling
through my body. Who, if not you, who have loved me
and held me and heard me; you, who assuage the pains
and anguish of being alive, you, who have given me
courage to face everything but this.
The specter of his dying before her only seemed to deepen their love and to make each day a gift to be savored and treasured. In “Old Age, Alone: Another Love Poem” (from her collection, Wired and Other Poems, published in 2001), Angela celebrates their life together:
If I must live a long time
without you, I will grieve
but I will not mourn.
I will start the tale at August,
a hot afternoon, when your breath
questioned mine and our lust-
driven, love-drenched epic began.
I will dawdle over every frame,
mouth every syllable, until
Their love endured his heart attack and her breast cancer. In the featured poem “Another Love Poem: Even in Hell” (Munyori Literary Journal, June 2016), Angela gloats: They had beaten all the trials the gods had thrown at them.
The gods have always hated us,
our unrelenting lust, insistent
impropriety, our mutual obsession –
and not just the gods.
A binge, they thought, let them
have it, they’ll soon fall/fail,
be revulsed by the other’s touch.
But it wasn’t a binge – it is
obsession – magnificent and eternal,
even in Hell.
They need only one, they think
to destroy the other, but
until then they must simmer
Because of Richard’s ongoing health problems, they believed that the gods would take him first. But after 45 years of confounding the gods – with all of [her] agonies, heartache, fears, tears dissolving into so much matter… glories too, and happiness… And all those incredible physical pleasures (from “The Interview,” Wired and Other Poems, 2001) – Angela became the chosen one to end their obsession.
Digging deep to find his inner strength and quiet his weak, aching heart, Richard cared for his beloved Angela, struck down with lung cancer, until her final breath. What greater love can a woman ask for from the man with whom she has entwined her words?
To read the complete featured poem and learn more about the work of Angela Consolo Mankiewicz, go to my Poetry Corner April 2017.