Cousin Bonnie was on my mind yesterday, February 22. Had she not died 26 years ago, she would have turned 62 on Monday; 3 months older than me. Because Bonnie was such a talented poet, and because I am proud to be cousin to the Utah Poet of the Year 1983, I decided to pay tribute to her this month. I also love many of her poems because they speak of people and places I know and love. But there is another reason I felt prompted to remember Bonnie, and I wrote a little bit about that in earlier posts. I mentioned that this cousin haunts me. Maybe I should say her words haunt me. But I’m talking about more than her poems; I’m actually referring to the inscription she wrote in my copy of Wake the Unicorn.
After the poetry readings of Bonnie’s work, she signed copies of her book during the reception honoring her. I waited in line to hug and kiss her and to get my autographed copy. We exchanged warm greetings; I offered my warmest congratulations to her, and told her how very proud I was of this tremendous accomplishment . I remember Bonnie absolutely glowed in the joy of that evening. Finally, she picked up the book, scribbled a short message, and hugged me again as she handed the copy to me. I didn’t immediately read what she wrote, but when I looked over the inscription, her words startled me.
While I’ve often battled with my own jealousies, I didn’t really see how anyone could be jealous of ME! (Except for my little sister Connie – but that’s normal because oldest sisters get to do MOST things before younger sisters, including growing older!) I never DREAMED Bonnie might be jealous of me, and I could only guess why because I wasn’t close enough to her to understand how or when this developed. I immediately realized I hated being the object of jealousy even more than BEING jealous.
I’ve often read her poems to learn more about her, and as I do, I see reasons to envy her short life. Those who peopled Bonnie’s world are painted as such interesting characters: the teacher of her one-room school house, the American Indian woman who “speaks of the Sun Dance,” the gypsy with the “black oiled hair” and “luminous eyelids,” and the witch who is “old as your fear of the unknown.” When I add in the landscapes and the seasons; the pains, the joys, and the love Bonnie saw and felt, I marvel at how intricately she observed and how deeply she breathed in everything around her. Not only in reflection, but in the very moment. To find, then pen perfect words, I think Bonnie must have lived the world – simultaneously breathing in experiences through every one of her senses, and then freeing her heart to examine each sensation. I doubt that this makes much sense because I am trying to describe the indescribable. I should just let her poetry do the talking.
Bonnie, happy birthday.