It happens to my wife, but not me. I’m jealous. She crosses the street to shop at Marsh, to
get some This and That and comes back with a bag full of both and a smile. This
happens altogether too often. She says, pleased with her good fortune: “I saw Mari again
at Marsh.” “What did you talk about?” I have to know. “Oh, this and that. She does know
I’m your wife,” she concedes, but I feel left out of the conversation and this private
community of two, though I’m the poet. I think to myself, but am too ashamed to say out
loud, “Well, Mari has a poem in a stained-glass window at the new Indy airport and so do
I. Why don’t she and I ever meet at Marsh? I go there often. I never get to meet Mari, but
you do all the time. How’s come?”

One day when we are shopping at Marsh, we split, then later I find her and Mari talking
right before the low-cal grape and cranberry juice I crave. There is Mari, dressed
elegantly, as ever, in black. She recognizes me. “Finally,” I say, “I too get to see you at
Marsh!” As if that is a privilege denied for decades. I think of her marvelous poem etched
in stained glass that begins, “I will bring you a whole person.” “Well,” Mari says, with an
ironic smile, “I was at an event the other night,” as I’m thinking of another great line of
hers etched in that window: “I be bringing you a whole heart.” She continues, with that
smile: “When I was introduced as the Indiana Poet Laureate, your job, one woman made
quite a sour face because she thought I had taken away your job.”

The truth is, I’m no longer IPL, I declined a second term, but I don’t admit it. I think
instead of how much heart is in Mari’s poems and presence. That makes me remember
another airport poem line, “An you be bringing a whole heart / a little chipped and
rusty…” “Oh, that woman was so unhappy,” Mari continues with her unrelenting smile.
“Oh,” I blurt, “I wish you really were Indiana Poet Laureate! You would do a great job.”
I imagine her saying to me, “We be bringing …the music of our selves.”

How can I admit that no longer serving as Indiana Poet Laureate gives me more time to
spend at Marsh half-looking for Mari? I keep that secret to myself, delighted to have met
and spoken with Mari in one of my favorite haunts in Marsh, the Grape and Cranberry
Aisle in downtown Indianapolis, not in California where Allen Ginsberg claimed he saw
Walt Whitman in a supermarket. “We be twice as strong,” I can almost hear her conclude
before all those beaming bottles of juice. “You bring a whole person everywhere, to
every person you meet and poem you write,” I think but am a little too shy to say to the
real, not the imagined, Mari Evans in Marsh, where every bottle of juice squeezed from
grapes suddenly promises to transform into deep red wine.

 

Photo thanks to Oceanspray.com.