The romance begins with a vermillion suit:
"How will I know you?
My vermillion suit, I answered."
and ends with a prayer:
"Greet your adversaries with prayers for peace.
Then, chances for everyone's delight worldwide
are increased seven billion to one.
Those are very good odds."
In between, Lee Woodman's Lifescapes chronicles the progression of a love affair from meeting through a personals ad—"Pediatrician,
passion for the arts"—when the narrator dons the aforementioned vermillion suit and the protagonists meet for drinks, through courtship and marriage, to divorce and a
new perspective on the wider world.
Along the way, the couple negotiates and move through the obstacles to marriage.
"But money, o yes money. Would we ever come to mesh?
Marriage seemed appealing, but life presented clashes."
The narrator remembers a troubled previous relationship.
"I almost wanted to marry Brad, but the wine stain he left
on my white carpet while I slept was bloody garnet."
Health crises afflict both partners. Heart failure strikes the husband.
"You know I'll help you heal—
I'll prop in the swivel chair,
feed you tuna fish, nuts, cheese."
In the midst of frightening world events ("Trump firings…Ebola…cyber-struck by China"), the narrator visits her eye doctor:
"I wonder if he knows
the whole world—
Life changing crises
hole, damaged optic nerve….
Horrifying as a partner
going sullen, silent."
As the narrative progresses, Woodman continues to present the growing difficulties of the marriage against the backdrop of world events,
especially the rise of Covid-19. At the same time, the narrator recalls a traumatic childhood event, the sister of a friend attempting suicide. In one particularly harrowing
poem ("Secrets I Tell Myself"), she relates a series of events beginning in childhood and continuing up to the present: At thirteen she "held my wrists in bed…so I would
not commit suicide by mistake." At sixteen she has a pregnancy scare, at the end of her first marriage she has an abortion, during her third marriage she is stalked and engages
in a three-day drinking binge, and now, "nearing seventy,/I tell myself these secrets/and repeat them to see if they are true."
One would love to go on and on selecting quotes here, telling more of the story there, but I will conclude by remarking that Woodman
throughout exhibits a novelist's eye for the telling detail and a poet's gift for rich language while managing to describe even the most passionate or disturbing incidents with
a calm tone that is neither overwrought nor sentimental. In addition, her formal dexterity is everywhere present. (The book contains couplets, a pantoum, a villanelle, as well
as measured, highly crafted free verse.)
Order your copy from the publisher, Kelsay Books (https://bit.ly/3BWuRV7) or Amazon (https://amzn.to/3BYELWf). You will be well rewarded.
For more about Lee Woodman, visit her website at https://poetleewoodman.com/
If my readers will indulge me, I'd like to share that my latest book of poems, Riffs & Improvisations, is now available from Kelsay Books and Amazon:
I would be delighted if some of you would acquire a copy.