...she was wearing a red floral skirt and biker boots, which spoke to me of both a femininity and a toughness that I admire about her as a person, and that I admire about her work. Irene was just the inspiration to prompt folks to write during our writer residency portion of the GPL Book Arts Project. Students quilted poetry out of emotions and memories, bloggers noted forgotten thoughts on the backs of a scraps of paper, a men’s group began planning an Easter sunrise service that will include participants reading bits of poetry about rebirth, renewal and love…
Irene Latham is an author whose storytelling has such depths and richness, a reader can get completely lost in the words. Both her poetry and her prose remind us of life’s greatest pleasures and pains, the things that round us out and make us who we are. Love and loss. The colors of nature and the changing of the seasons. The smells and the tastes that trigger memories. I don’t have to tell you anymore, right? You know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?
One of my all-time favorite poems happens to be one penned by Irene (and may be found in her book The Color of Lost Rooms), a love poem entitled Black Shaw Remembers Crazy Horse (reprinted here with permission of Irene Latham):
The old ones like to saymemory is like riding a trailat night with a lighted torch.And so it does not surprise methat your face has been swallowedby darkness, your voice black asthe wounded wings of a crow.
But sometimes the torch flares,illuminating the way your bodyfolded itself against mine,how the last time you loved meyou dipped your thumb in red paintand covered the part in my hair,marking me a woman greatly loved.
When the rattlesnake came intothe lodge, you could not crush it.And you couldn't save our daughterfrom the white man's coughing disease.In the end, the Black Hills were lost, too -the heart of everything that is.
I wasn't your only wife. But I amthe one who remembers. I whisperyour name and it drifts as snowacross the prairie, then meltsand is gone.
I especially love the image “memory is like riding a trail at night with a lighted torch,” and “sometimes the torch flares.” Memory is just like that. So perfectly said.