The Love Poems of Marichiko

The Love Poems of Marichiko
By Kenneth Rexroth

Some selected passages.

You ask me what I thought about
Before we were lovers.
The answer is easy.
Before I met you
I didn’t have anything to think about.

A single ray in the dawn,
The bliss of our love
Is incomprehensible.
No sun shines there, no
Moon, no stars, no lightning flash,
Not even lamplight.
All things are incandescent
With love which lights up all the world.

Spring is early this year.
Laurel, plums, peaches,
Almonds, mimosa,
All bloom at once. Under the
Moon, night smells like your body.

Love me. At this moment we
Are the happiest
People in the world.

Every morning, I
Wake alone, dreaming my
Arm is your sweet flesh
Pressing my lips.

The disorder of my hair
Is due to my lonely sleepless pillow.
My hollow eyes and gaunt cheeks
Are your fault.

Rexroth viewed love for another person as a sacramental act that could connect one with a transcendent, universal awareness. In his introduction to his poem The Phoenix and the Tortoise, Rexroth articulated his understanding of love and marriage: “The process as I see it goes something like this: from abandon to erotic mysticism, from erotic mysticism to the ethical mysticism of sacramental marriage, thence to the realization of the ethical mysticism of universal responsibility.” In other words, love was a key to truly realizing one’s existence, something that could be cemented and validated in the long run by wedded union.

Students were encouraged to write their own poetry and then recite it. Once incident during his class was fairly explosive, however. A certain male student started to recite his own work, a jumbled, jokey misogynistic piece exhulting in violence towards women. Rexroth stopped the reading, mid-stream, angrily eviscerated the student, to the astonishment of others in the class, and banished the offender from ever setting foot in Rexroth’s class again. Such was Rexroth’s respect and dedication to the idea of transcendental love between a man and a woman.

Rexroth died in Santa Barbara in 1982. He had spent his final years translating Japanese and Chinese women poets, as well as promoting the work of female poets in America and overseas. He is buried on the grounds of the Santa Barbara Cemetery Association overlooking the sea, and while all the other graves face inland, his alone faces the Pacific. His epitaph reads, “As the full moon rises / The swan sings in sleep / On the lake of the mind.”