Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine poet laureate.

Poet and artist Haines Tate of Waterville died of cancer in 2012 at age 46, but not without writing this love poem for her husband, Duncan.


By Haines Sprunt Tate

for D

This is the poem I meant to give you

for your birthday: a kind of balloon

that would rise on a slight draft

to float above the occasion,

taut and bright and full of easy breath

with a long ribbon trailing down

for holding onto or tying to your chair.

After you’d opened all the presents

while everyone oohed and ahhed,

after the cake and candles,

the joker gifts and For He’s a Jolly

Good Fellow and they’d all gone home

glad it hadn’t been their turn

to blow the flame off another year,

that’s when I meant to say, Look,

Love, what I made for you:

Take it and don’t let go –

But now your birthday’s done

and I’d be heartless to remind you

with a thing deflated, wrinkling,

that bumps the corners of the hall

more off-kilter every day,

so far from its highest aspirations.

Though I almost think you’d crack

a smile to see how it’s outlasted

all the fuss: the cake, the cards

and all the company but one

old procrastinator, old hanger-on.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright 2013 by the estate of Isabelle Haines Sprunt Tate. Reprinted from “Strata and Other Poems,” Ghost Leaf Press, 2013 (available from ondemandbooks.com), by permission of Duncan Tate. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc at [email protected] or 228-8263. “Take Heart: Poems from Maine,” an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.