Loose Ends

by Nola Garrett

Mid-April, I received my yearly Travelers car insurance bill. It was nearly two hundred dollars higher than it was last year. I’d had no claims or speeding tickets on my 2011 Honda Fit which only I drive. Nothing had changed, I thought, until I phoned my agent who informed me that because my divorce was final: I’m now single. And, that fact means I’m a higher risk driver. I was pissed! Later that day I talked with a recently widowed friend who told me that her insurance company, State Farm, told her the same thing, except that they were raising her rates not only because she was now single, but also (to add insult to injury) because she was a woman! She seemed pretty accepting of that higher rate, said she kept her policy because her late husband had chosen that company. I was amazed.

I called Travelers to see if I raised my deductible, I’d have a lower bill. Turned out the bill would go down…some, but they would mail me a form to sign off on the change. When the form arrived, it was addressed to my ex-husband, and my name was nowhere on the form even though last June I reported the divorce, requested the insurance to be listed under only my name, and this year’s higher bill, indeed, had come in my name. I was even more pissed! I began looking for a new company. Within a half hour I had a quote from Erie Insurance Exchange more than three hundred dollars lower than my last year’s bill, and they didn’t mind in the least that I’m a single old lady. Furthermore, when I added my condo insurance into the mix, I had an additional $173.00 to spend on poetry books.

I calmed down and went back to arranging my new poetry manuscript. Then, the Spring Issue of The Georgia Review and a check arrived for the publication of my recent small poem, “The Pastor’s Wife Considers Her Chops,” the very last pastor’s wife poem I shall ever write. This poem’s fierceness still appalls me, yet I know I needed to write it. I had to honor that persona, who was a better person than I ever was, and who served me well for so many years. She deserved the best I could give her—a tough, witty, tender, ars poetia emerging from the depths of my being. As I read Stephen Corey’s introductory editorial essay to that issue and found an entire paragraph devoted to my other pastor’s wife poems published by The Georgia Review, I wept. A few days later, I discovered Stephen Corey had written a longer essay about those other pastor’s wife poems and posted those poems in The Georgia Review’s Vault web site. Again, I was undone.

Once more, I went back to work on my poetry manuscript, and I was idly thinking I ought to add some epigraphs to help the reader understand something about the three sections this manuscript contains, something that would unify all three parts, including the selected sestinas third section. What kept intruding into my mind was words from the first line of a John Donne poem: “Batter my heart, three-personed God….” I looked up the poem, found it was number XIV of his Holy Sonnets:

Batter my heart, three-personed God; for You
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labor to admit You, but Oh, to no end!
Reason, Your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love You, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto Your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to You, imprison me, for I,
Except You enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except You ravish me.

Perhaps, for modern tastes this entire poem is a little much for a poetry book section epigraph, but what if I broke up the poem, chose just a few lines from Donne’s sonnet to head each section? “The Pastor’s Wife Considers Her Chops” that opens Section II may well deserve Donne’s words: “Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,…” And, Section III, the selected sestinas that brim with my experimentation with that form:

That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow burn, and make me new.


Meanwhile, within the last three weeks, two windows have fallen out of my 50-year-old condo building. The most recent fell from the 15th floor. Orange cones and crime scene-yellow tape now block three sides of my building. Engineers have been called. Seems our building’s double-pane windows, which open out six inches, consist of a fixed-frame inner pane and a removable outer pane, forming a clamshell, bound with finger hinges which allow the two panes to be separated for cleaning. Our finger hinges are failing, and what falls is the outer pane. Tomorrow evening I’m going to attend what I expect to be a very serious condo owners’ meeting. “As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend….”


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