Eclipsings poems by Rennie McQuilkin

picture of Rennie McQuilkin
Photo by Hunter Neal.  

Eclipsings depicts a variety of eclipses both emotional and physical. About the book the author has written, “Not long ago, just after a worrisome report from my oncologist, a total eclipse of the sun occurred.  A nasty omen, I thought, but after a few minutes, a bright ring emerged, at its center a gem of light transforming the darkened sun to a wedding ring for one unforgettable moment before the sun returned. That's it, I thought. Though the sun's vincibility had been underscored, it was all the more precious for its transience, as is true of life for all of us getting on in years. The poems in this little afterthought of a book reflect the good news I felt at that moment of illumination. Though the various sorts of eclipsings in these poems are sometimes dire, their darkness is offset by hope and love and joy.”

Commending the book, Pegi Deitz Shea writes, “The poems in Rennie McQuilkin’s Eclipsings literally sing in their communion with his Sarah in her afterlife; their lamentations for his son battling cancer; and their hosannas for the joys only he can still find as his bones are ‘collapsing, fit to break / into particles and join the blossoming world they came from.’  The poems celebrate the universe’s cycles ranging from mating piliated woodpeckers to college hoops, Easter resurrection, and a total eclipse. Rennie’s boundless love and lines will forever flare out from behind the dark orb of mortal life, forging for us a ‘shield of faith in mysteries beyond probability.’ ”

 

 

   
  eclipsings cover image
  Photo courtesy of iStock.

Rennie McQuilkin grew up in Pittsford, New York, received Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in history and English from Princeton and Columbia Universities, and decided against a career in law after a stint at Harvard Law School.  He taught English and often directed theatrical productions at Horace Mann School; Phillips Academy and Abbot Academy in Andover, Massachusetts; Schoolboys Abroad in Rennes, France; as well as the Loomis-Chaffee School and Miss Porter's School in Connecticut. Rennie was Poet Laureate of Connecticut from 2015 to 2018. His poems have appeared in The Atlantic, The  Yale Review, Poetry, The Southern Review, The Hudson Review, The American Scholar, Crazyhorse, and elsewhere. This is his 26th poetry collection.  He has received a number of awards for his work, including a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, six fellowships from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Connecticut Center for the Book. In 2010 his volume of new and selected poems, The Weathering, was awarded the Center’s annual poetry prize under the aegis of the Library of Congress; and in 2018, North of Eden received the Next Generation Indie Book Award in Poetry.  He co-founded and for many years directed the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival at Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, Connecticut.  In 2018, Rennie and his wife of sixty-two years – artist, teacher, counselor, gardener, and gourmet cook Sarah McQuilkin – moved to the Seabury retirement community in Bloomfield, CT.  Sadly, Sarah passed away in January of 2023.






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BOOK STATISTICS

ISBN 979-8-9898548-3-7
First Edition, 2024
46 pages
$12.00
Copies of this book are available
from all booksellers including Amazon
 and buyers can order inscribed & signed copies
 directly from the author: Rennie McQuilkin
400 Seabury Dr., #5196
Bloomfield, CT 06002.
Send $12 per book
plus $3 shipping
by check payable
 to the author.

Rennie McQuilkin can be contacted at
RMcQuil36@gmail.com and 860-519-1804

 

SAMPLE POEMS

copyright © 2024 by Rennie McQuilkin

 

 

 

The Lost Cane
for Sarah

 

Searching everywhere for my cane,
my beautiful blond sycamore cane
with the clever face, upturned nose,

eyes knowing how to home,
and the grip that fit my right hand
as if known by heart – searching for

my precious cane,
that steadied me when I lost balance,
I think always of you, my best support.

As my hand snugs the lost cane
in reverie, I feel it curl about gone parts
of you, my belovèd I am never without.

Another Worn Path
after Eudora Welty

 

Against loving advice from you, dear daughter,
I had to travel alone down a worn path,
though you were deep in my heart.  Forgive.

I set forth with final things packed for hospital,
just in case, necessaries and memorabilia
of my belovèd, a prelude for rejoining her –
headed out on the road worn by so many others
for an examination I feared.

Down Crestview I went, past the high school's
garish graffiti – out-dated history of young love –
continuing to an industrial wasteland
pocked with enormous potholes, passing
grim tractor trailer lots, crossing rusted tracks,
reaching Cottage Grove Rd. – no cottages, no grove,
just rage, traffic out of control . . .

Mirabile dictu, I made it to the uninviting grounds
of a sprawling medical center, then finally to a waiting
room into which I limped painfully, undone
by the loud maledictions of a patient cussing like
a Weird Sister from Macbeth.

When my name, sounding strangely foreign, was called,
I was led to a roomful of Dantean, truth-loving machinery,
into which stepped a white-coated man
who assessed me in silence and listened to my wheezing:
Take deep breaths and say EEEEEEEEE . . .
At length he smiled and pronounced me salvageable,
no ventilator in my future.

Oh joy, I can unpack
my mind.  I head out, my own parade in celebration,
straight to another body shop to erase my low pressure
light.  Happily, I am inflated to the right psi and turn

left on Park for Pasticceria Italia,
close as a parking permit permits.  Using two canes I am
a replica of deer dancers she and I saw on the high Hopi mesa,
my body bent to the front legs of a deer, talisman for
long life.  The door chime might as well be the ringing of bells
at spruce-clad ankles.  Oh perfect, they still have fresh-baked
blueberry muffins, I tell you – your favorites.

Back home, I gulp air joyfully and undo what I have left
undone – water your dry mandevilla plant with a mix of
Epsom Salt for magnesium and blue Miracle-Gro.  May it
bloom again!  I tell you my living is merely a postponement
and the plant drinks in its libation with a small kissing sound.

Next morning I hear something other than a band of angels –
a Carolina Wren, up from down the coast, serenading,
underscored by a raucous Redwing.  Hosanna in the highest!

A Skeptic’s Easter Watch

 

Wrapped in the dark russet prayer shawl
of my dear one’s last hours, I close my eyes
against the big game, turn off sound, catch only
silent glimpses as if from a high place through rifts
in clouds – the way I imagine floaters in Heaven
must see the wholly foreign goings-on below
from impossibly high seats of a planetary stadium.

The sound track from the other sort of living
room is suggestive – the New World Symphony.
On this Easter Saturday I am trying not to
disbelieve that the Lord in a ghostly body is busy,
as liturgical legend would have it, in the under-
world, “harrowing hell,” sending unbaptized
but deserving souls from there straight to Heaven.

Momentary glimpses of a basketball controlled
by huge hands alleyooping from above a high rim
allow me to believe in the way some heavenly
hand will reach down, roll the boulder blocking
the entrance to the Lord’s temporary resting place.
Beyond all skepticism in my otherworldly state, I am
prepared for the ultimate victory Easter morning.

Mount Hope Moment
for Nern and Archie

 

Somewhat alive on a vibrating Tempur-Pedic bed,
I emulate a Roman sculpted on his sarcophagus
but have in mind something more.

I am thinking of Mt. Hope Cemetery, my daughter
with her swain walking this city of the dead,
Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony nearby,

as she told me yesterday, describing how alive this
garden place with its blossoming abundance
of thundercloud plum, star magnolia and dogwood.

Near the Poets’ Garden featuring my mother’s verse,
on a hillside Nern and Archie are level with a treetop,
seeing eye to eye with what happens now.

Two huge Pileated Woodpeckers, their dance finished
(around & around the maypole of a larch, much pecking
of bark and beak tips, exposing of long neck by the lady),

they move on to the main feature.  She lies flat out on
a limb and he, having withdrawn to a far oak, flies
in, white wing escutcheons flaring angelically, onto her.

It is over in a trice, but the future will never be the same.
He announces the moment with red-crested drumming,
his god-beak celebrating, which will soon dig a tree nest.
We too revel, having had a visit from the world beyond.


Amulets
for Robin and E.A.M.

 

It is my son’s time
of life and death, time
to wear an ornamental
tsuba, hand guard
from a Japanese sword,

protective pendant
once balancing its weapon
in samurai battle,
still providing balance
in the weight of its sway.

I too, in my similar state,
hold a talisman close,
otter carved into a stone,
precious gift from Mother.
It rests in a pocket

over my left hip, the one
invaded by a riddling of
cancer advancing on me.
The otter reminds me to play

and returns me to riding
as a child on the belly
of my mama, as the young
of an otter float at ease.

It is thus my son and I thrive,
defended by supposings
of our minds so real
they will us long life, long life.