“Puzzle” & “Two Moons”

Jean Nolan Banner

“Do you know it when you meet him? Do you see/Through the glowing filter of happy lust,/On down the twisted tunnel of the years,/ The anguish and the shock of recognition—/The moment when, in simultaneous stroke,/You and he have swum the river of time,/And found a flat topped rock.”— Jean Carroll Nolan

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By Jean Carroll Nolan

“The Samurai of Chicago.” (Photo: Julie Zerega.)
“The Samurai of Chicago.” (Photo: Julie Zerega.)

Editor’s Note: On November 16 of this year, poet Jean Carroll Nolan and I lost a beloved mutual friend, a man we called “Samurai” . . .  “The Samurai of Chicago.” The following pair of poems Nolan dedicates to Samurai, and his beloved spouse, “French,” who survives him. We also, Jean and I, with our Samurai-given nicknames (he did that for, and to, everyone he loved), survive him . . . and grieve his loss. He used to call me “Number One.” In fact, he was Number One. There will never be another like him.

Jean NolanSEASIDE California—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2019—

By Jean Carroll Nolan

Do you know it when you meet him? Do you see
Through the glowing filter of happy lust,
On down the twisted tunnel of the years,
The anguish and the shock of recognition—
The moment when, in simultaneous stroke,
You and he have swum the river of time,
And found a flat topped rock, a sanctuary,
From horror, and from glory, and from sorrow,
But chosen, like the Buddha, to abide?
Mute, Niobic, strangers to sleep, to peace,
Witnesses, accusers, thick compassion
Dripping from wings sodden with layered pain,
That weigh you down. Knowing that all is futile,
Yet perching beside this other entity,
Gently smiling into each other’s grief,
Singing in the abattoir.

Two Moons
By Jean Carroll Nolan

Whoever says that love is simple, lies,
Perhaps with purpose, or perhaps by chance;
To know which, you must close your seeking eyes
And feel, not see, the rhythms of the dance.

A folk dance, dips, spins, allemandes, glissades,
Arms linking, intricate and quick and light,
To meet, and smile, and swing through sweet charades
Of love, and lust and laughter in the night.

Dewdrops on the threads of webs at dawn,
Stretched like necklaces from limb to limb,
Etched water magic, perfect, finely drawn,
Evaporate in sunlight, while the hymn

Of waking birds fills morning. So it seems
Our lives play out, no differently, despite
The passion we expend pursuing dreams,
Our foolish faith that we can win this fight.

When right does not fit neatly in a box,
Our hearts break, smashed on underwater rocks.
Yet, rising, reaching up toward mottled light,
Breathlessly, we know love must be right.

Jean Carroll Nolan lives in Seaside, California (just north of Monterey), in a perpetually disorderly house, with too many books for the bookcases and a housemate whom she has known since 1985, when they met on their daughters’ first day of kindergarten. She enjoys music, reading, writing poetry, talking with friends, and watching old films. She is cared for by two dogs: Sonny, a 90-pound bully dog; and Mojo, a 14-pound chihuahua mix. (The chihuahua, of course, believes himself to be larger than his enormous younger brother.) Nolan’s reading tastes are eclectic, ranging from sociology to murder mysteries, royal biographies, and military history. She considers herself a liberal and a patriot, and sees no dichotomy there. She supports animal rescue projects and facilities (race horses and pit bulls, in particular), and is trying to preserve a diminishing belief that courtesy and kindness have power to reshape the world. She adores her two adult children and her daughter- and son-in-law, who are as good as it gets. She is desperately in love with her grandchildren, Brody and Sarah, her grand dogs, Wayne and and Chance and Suzy Snowflake and Valentino, and her grand cats, Oliver and Greta. She enjoys finding and enjoying the miraculous in everyday life, a trait she first discovered in the subway stations of Chicago, observing former field mice who, amazingly, not only survived but thrived on the track bed below the trains. (Author Photos: John Nolan.)

One Comment

  • Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

    “The moment when, in simultaneous stroke,/You and he have swum the river of time,/And found a flat topped rock, a sanctuary,/From horror, and from glory, and from sorrow,/But chosen, like the Buddha, to abide?”
    Ah, Jean. I loved Alan so. When we, all three, re-found one another, and found Julie Zerega, Alan’s Life-amanuensis and Great Love, I felt I had reclaimed my lost adolescence in Chicago . . . and injected joy, wit, and human warmth back into it. He’s been leaving his body for years, our Samurai, but we had him for a time, a precious time. He and Ellen Hall will always be standing there, in the autumn light, at Parker, smiling and elegant and eternal. Always. I love you, Jean. Bebe