My Grandmother’s Love Letters

Harold Hart Crane
  • Harold Hart Crane
  • There are no stars tonight
  • But those of memory.
  • Yet how much room for memory there is
  • In the loose girdle of soft rain.
  • There is even room enough
  • For the letters of my mother’s mother,
  • Elizabeth,
  • That have been pressed so long
  • Into a corner of the roof
  • That they are brown and soft,
  • And liable to melt as snow.
  • Over the greatness of such space
  • Steps must be gentle.
  • It is all hung by an invisible white hair.
  • It trembles as birch limbs webbing the air.
  • And I ask myself:
  • “Are your fingers long enough to play
  • Old keys that are but echoes:
  • Is the silence strong enough
  • To carry back the music to its source
  • And back to you again
  • As though to her?”
  • Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand
  • Through much of what she would not understand;
  • And so I stumble. And the rain continues on the roof
  • With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.

Harold Hart Crane (1899–1932) was an American poet whose work is distinguished by a remarkable degree of verbal and lyrical intensity, a poetry far more Dionysian in spirit than that of his American contemporaries. The son of a successful Ohio businessman, Crane was homosexual at a time when such an orientation was not acceptable. He acquired a serious alcohol problem and was an anguished spirit, but he was also the most ecstatic and mystical American poet of his generation. Returning from a year in Mexico under a Guggenheim Fellowship, Crane committed suicide by jumping from the SS Orizaba, the ship on which he was returning to the United States. ”My Grandmother’s Love Letters” was composed in 1919 and appeared in Crane’s 1926 collection White Buildings.

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