Linda Pastan died in January this year, and this seems an appropriate poem to post for her. She was born in 1932 and went to Radcliffe. During her senior year, Pastan won a collegiate poetry prize sponsored by Mademoiselle magazinem a contest in which Sylvia Plath placed second. I wonder how that felt later on.
I saw my name in print the other day
with 1932 and then a blank
and knew that even now some grassy bank
just waited for my grave. And somewhere a grey
slab of marble existed already
on which the final number would be carved—
as if the stone itself were somehow starved
for definition. When I went steady
in high school years ago, my boyfriend’s name
was what I tried out, hearing how it fit
with mine; then names of film stars in some hit.
My husband was anonymous as rain.
There is a number out there, odd or even
that will become familiar to my sons
and daughter. (They are the living ones
I think of now: Peter, Rachel, Stephen.)
I picture it, four integers in a row
5 or 7, 6 or 2 or 9:
a period; silence; an end-stopped line;
a hammer poised … delivering its blow.
Linda Pastan, from Paris Review