Return To Madison


It is the autumn of 1936,
my bus from the East Coast rumbling
into this place that William Ellery called
"The shining city of my manhood's grief."
I wear a ring with seven small diamonds
and a couple more, a little larger.
I am in love with at least two men, also
the trumpet of Louis Armstrong, poetry,
scholarship, ritual, ice-skating
at 10 below zero, drinking Manhattans,
dancing, Wisconsin lakes and woods,
being in love with almost everything.
A crisis looms ahead: a June marriage;
but 10 months are too endless to be real.
The other man listens to the phone.
We will be walking in Vilas Park
before sundown, and that huge feeling
vaster than the continent will rise
within us , unbidden, unforeseen, and I
unlike the men I love never ask
to know what will happen next.
That shining return to a city bounded
by lakes I relieve five decades later,
looking up from a Stegner novel just begun,
staring into the dusk of a different time zone.
"I knew that the University was at one end
of State Street and the state capitol at the other,"
and the exaltation of learning, the sorrow and joy
of that year of marvels pierce me:
one all-night blizzard, and the dawn footprints
leaving from my door, filling with snow.

4/89
Virginia Hamilton Adair - Twenty Three Years Old