Wendy’s Garden

I’m not sure poetry and blogging mix. I know when I’m reading other people’s blogs they have about fifteen seconds to grab me. Hey, I’m a busy man. You’ve got to rivet me to my chair or I’ll be running off to see what Aprilbaby said today.

But poetry doesn’t work that way. Oh, I know – there’s the occasional Milk of the Bayou, a poem that smacks you in the face like a cold fish (think Sylvester the Cat here) and there you are, transported into a Roadrunner cartoon when you meant to spend quality time catching up on the G8 conference.

But regular poetry works slower. She’s shy. You’ve got to court her. You’ve got to print out that poem and take it into the garden and sit under a tree with a glass of lemonade and all the time in the world. Let the words trickle down like beads of moisture on your lemonade glass until they start to mean something.

Well, who has time for that? Might not hurt to try, though.

Hey, stay with me another twenty seconds already. I rummaged around and found Allen Cohen’s memorial poem for Wendy Norins, the girl who was the inspiration for Sylvie Potemkin in my novel-in-progress, The Syndicate of Eternal Friendship….

I got a funny feeling this morning, finding it in my back files and looking back towards the San Francisco of my youth – those years that created me. Am I the only one of my time and place left with memory intact? Why am I still here when so many who shared that youth have gone down to Davy Jones’ Locker? There must be others left – but where are they? I want to call Allen Cohen to talk about 1736 Page and after — but he’s nowhere to be found. He’s down waiting for the Ferryman.

Sometimes I feel like I’m marooned on a distant planet somewhere at the edge of the Milky Way – sending out little digital signals. Is anybody there? Is there anybody else out there? Oh well, guess I’d better go build up the fire…

Elegy for Wendy Norins, August 26, 1994
by Allen Cohen

It is the hot night of our lives.
Our bodies limp in their misuse.
Our souls though, that inner body,
statelier than mansions, gardens
lush and orderly with serene ponds
and tropical thickets.

Many beings and so much bitterness and beauty
inhabit our labyrinthine souls.
We have tended and grown each plant.
Nurtured each being that has entered there.
There are many secret places
that no one has yet seen,
some we have yet to explore.
Everyday we are adding
gorgeous flowering plants
and making new paths
and silent spaces.

And I think of you dear heart
and your wondrous pained soul.
How it ached and yet made room
for so many to find nourishment there!
In my memory I see you at 16 or 17
with an unearthly beauty, as if there
were four or five angels within you,
each pulling and lifting you
in a different direction
with each awkward breathless step.
It was a deep and mournful joyousness
that lived within you, strange
(I don’t think I romanticize here)
how every man wanted you
in order to heal their broken souls.

And you were a hippie maiden of the wind
until you finally settled in your body
and it began to corrupt your innocence
and the pain and the escape from pain
drove the angels of youth out
leaving you alone and empty.
Your destiny to reinvent your soul
To climb the ladder of light again
to let the air and rain
water the growing Eden within you.
With each act and thought
a deep compassion grew.
When such beauty born
and beauty reborn
departs our shattered world,
a vast mysterious crater
is created in the mind.
We look down into it
remembering you, looking
for the gardens of you,
stretching to reach across
the mystery of your departure.

Photos by Patrushka, except the fish.


2 thoughts on “Wendy’s Garden

  1. thank you for this poem/tribte…I knew Wendy as a young girl in Huntington, in New york City (met Edward Steichen at their apartment at 16), in San Francisco I lived with them for 3 years and saw her briefly in Santa Fe…I was saddened to see she died in 1994…time flies…I was just looking to see if I could track her down and read of her passing…we went to Hawaii on a freighter in 1962 with her parents…we laughed and cried…she was Wendy from Never Land..and yes a beautiful soul…sometimes one’s intellegence is to much…I do hope she has some wonderful really happy times…Here’s to you Miss Wendy!


    • Wonderful to hear from you, Jeanne. Wendy was one of the unforgettable ones, and she has never left me. For a long time, I’ve wanted to find her grave so I could put flowers on it. But, knowing Wendy, her remains were probably scattered on a green California river or across Mt. Tamalpais somewhere.


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