A Timeless Romance
February 14, 2018
On this bleak February day with unnaturally warm rain pelting the frozen ground, with news of yet another school slaughter and invasion of disease into the most personal spaces of family, with an endless but unheralded litany of misery as Nature screams for protection from unbridled greed, the pit of despair looms depthless and dark tempting the weak, the exhausted, the desperate into the abyss of drugged stupor or the oblivion of deliberate ignorance. As I contemplate this bleak scene, my mind wanders to the conditions my parents faced in a nation on the brink of war that already ravaged Europe and with unknown perils looming ahead. My Italian born Father, with his poet’s heart yet un- battered by the horrors he would live thorough as a special service paratrooper in Donovan’s Devils unit behind the lines, wrote to his fiancé this wonderful anthem of love and hope. Their dedication to the fight for justice and goodness never ceased until their ways parted when my Mother died in March 2000, followed by my Father in April 2001. The bond of their love encircled me and my brother and sister, the extended family as it grew, the students they each taught, and the many colleagues and friends they acquired from all around the world. They did not fight for people to bear arms, but for people to know and speak out, to stand against tyranny and injustice whether on the battle line in time of war or on the picket line in times of strife for worker’s rights. Theirs was a romance tested by time and adversity, but proven by a legacy that lasts. Their newest great-grandchild came this week- Anne Marcella bringing once again hope and renewal to the cycle of life.
In the midst of my sadness and near despair, my sister sent me again this poem of hope and love from my father’s war journals. He was a young soldier at camp, knowing he was facing a high possibility of going to war and not returning. So he writes to his sweetheart a vision of what can be. He returned to bring the dream to life.
Poem by Michael A. De Marco for Marcella Strutzel
Written in 1943 while in Training at Camp David, No. Carolina
There are some days in February, few
Rare, precious days when spring comes back and brings
Sunshine, breaths of warm air, and thawing winds.
If one lost track of time and left out March,
It would be Spring and easy to believe
That winter’s gone and Spring is here to stay.
It was Spring! We two forgot it was not May
And went to see the tree, our tree, the one
By us imagined, planted in the grove
Where it was growing with the other maples.
And as we walked, the spongey earth and sod
Made squeaky, sucking noises when we stepped.
We did not care about the wet, it was
So good to see that all the snow had gone,
That all the rocks were drying brown and grey,
And that in low spots, clumps of fresh, new grass
Thrust straight, green blades through last year’s rotted mat.
We walked on the path’s upper side, where sod
Grew thick and made a lapping rim, until
It wound itself away as if it were
A spool of yarn that had unrolled and left
Us standing, when unraveled, at the root
Of our adopted maple. There it was
Growing up, big, spreading graceful branches
So its leaves would brush the other trees,
Cast shadows to protect from the hot sun
Dew drops, ferns, lilies, moss and violets.
I drew up close and rubbed the bark to see
If I could feel its pulse with my four fingers.
They touched a smooth spot just beneath the crotch.
There were not scars or rings; it was clean bark.
This was the spot for it I knew.
My knife out from my pocket, opened it
And whet the blade on sandstone rock I found.
I tested the new edge for sharpness then.
It felt keen when I stroked it with my thumb.
The setting sun was perfect light, as if
I had commanded it to send its rays
At that one angle for my work, I dug
The knife blade in; and it cut quick and deep,
Clean through the bark to strike the white heart-wood.
Then with a turn I sliced a curve and made
The bottom of the point. Another twist
And I had drawn the other side. Now for
The cutting out and stripping of the bark.
She stood aside and watched my bright knife blade,
More interested in the sunlight’s flash,
Play, dance of fiery pin points on the steel.
At last I turned to her, said it was done;
But for a moment she stood silent, pointing
With forefinger at the sun and sky.
A cool wind blew the clouds until they rolled
Themselves into soft balls of eider down,
Lined up and formed in banks of threes and fours,
Then slowly rolled away on melting bars
Of sunlight, revolving puffs of golden mist.
And as the sun dropped down to rest behind
The shoulders of black hills, the wind whispered
Goodnight and stretched cloud banners there to mark
With streamers red where the sun slept till dawn.
We looked and saw the beauty of sunset;
Then with an easy motion she swung round
And gazed upon the heart that I had cut
Deep in the clear, grey bark of the young maple.
The outline on the inner heart-wood clean,
White, shaped a solid fullness in the bark.
A rounded heart, and through its middle came
The arrow straight and slim, perfect and true,
As if struck there half way exactly by
The golden bow of Cupid letting loose
The arrow of true love deep in our heart;
A last sun’s ray turned it to sudden gold,
Just for an instant made it livid, burning,
Shimmering and alive with quivering light.
Then it paled white, and slowly darkened
Silver, like the rising moon of coming night.
Our heart will grow and strengthen with the tree,
And with the bark become more warm and round.
Perhaps it may stir, beat, pulse like our own
Some day when sap starts through in Spring…when sun,
South wind, blue sky bring with them miracles,
Its soul will fill with everlasting love!