Vincent, as she was known to her family, has long been one of my very favorites–what can I say, I love me a sonnet!–and trying to decide on which of her works to share took me far too long.
When she’s not being arch and clever (as in First Fig), or painting artless, evocative portraits of what was or what might be (read I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed), she writes poems brimming with feeling–passion, fury, soul-ache–that never spill over into mess or pathos. Her facility with deceptively simple language creates a marvelous cage for the wildest birds of emotion, and the tension between the smooth surfaces and churning depths never fails to move me.
And so, I had to choose…
Sonnet V: If I should learn
If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again–
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man–who happened to be you–
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
I should not cry aloud–I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place–
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.