VIVIENNE, THE POET (Part 2): Poems and Biography of poet Mike Stone’s Mom

“Emily* sat with her wide skirts
Spread out over the squirrels and roses
Like a peacock’s tail in the desert of my childhood
Hugging the incubus of her daydreams
And listening to her own loneliness
As though her hands could touch its shape.” Ouija Poem #1, Mike Stone, February 5, 2016



Editor’s Notes: The photographs here belong to Mike and his family.  Please be respectful.  Note also that Mike’s mom changed the spelling of her name from Vivian to Vivienne, hence the discrepancy between the narrative commentary and the name on the book and the header photograph. The reference to Emily in the poem above is to Vivian/Vivienne who, if she could have chosen her own name, would have chosen “Emily.” Mike’s poem above is from Songs of Joy and Pain, the complete collection of Vivienne’s poems. The book closes with some poems by Mike under the general title Conversations with My Dead Mother.  / J.D.”

POETRY

Related
.
Dear Child, you wonder why I watch you so,
Your solemn, grey eyes now are questioning me.
How much are they like mine! How wise and still –
Brimming with dreams. I saw your fingers clutch
Your book as though it were some precious jewel –
And so it is …
A thousand books ago,
I sat as you sit now, far, far away
In some new land, my mind the strange mirror
Of what I read. What joyous life can dance
Across a printed page! Quiet little elf,
Too old for those your age, but still too young
To understand the subtle meanings of
The grownup’s world. Like me, aloof you sit,
Thoughtful, and yet, perhaps one moment back
Your little feet were flying over sand,
Eager, and swift, like wind, and close to God –
(Or what you think God is).
You deem me rude
To come and pierce your solitude. I know
More than you dream, how precious are your thoughts,
Guarded and unperceived. You see, dear heart,
We are but one. You are the child I was,
I am the poet grown that you will be.
……………………………July 13, 1948

Child of the Poet
.
I am the child of the Poet,
The daughter of the Beloved.
My soul was moulded by the hands
Of the Infinite Creator.
Silent and tender was His touch;
Eternal is His creation.

Out of a darkness do I come,
Reluctant to leave the warmth
Of the womb that has cradled me,
Rebellious at being thrust forth
From the secret nights I have known,
Into a strange, beginning day.
I am born now of love and pain
That is shared by the earth each spring,
When flowers break the hard, stubborn ground –
Shattering beauty with beauty, –
So I pierce the wind with my cries,
And the flight of years with my birth.
I am born, and the Beloved,
My Mother, is joyous and free.
Her voice is lifted in singing. –
“World, I give you my dearest child,
My vision of beauty made whole!”
And I am her dream and her song.
. . . . . . .  . . . .  . July 9, 1952
.

Sacrilege
.
So you thought to love a poet, –
Scornfully inclined,
Dared to want a poet’s body, –
And refuse her mind!

Did you guess her soul carved deeper
Than the shallow well?
Know it filled with flames of heaven,
And the ice of hell?
Could you think to take the darling
Of the gods above,
Bind her spirit into submission,
In the name of “Love”?
Leave the hearts of poets for others –
Wiser men, and kings;
You are well-content with lesser,
Foolish, little things!
                              February 14, 1953
,

The Cry of the Dreamers
.
World, you seek to still our yearning,
Have presumed to curse the stream
Raging in our hearts, as madness,
Hailing stagnant lakes supreme;
Proudly garbed in robes of science
You dissect the Poet’s dream!

In your land that grants the tyrant
Leave to trick the stupid breed,
Lauds the fork-tongued man as clever,
Bows before the rich man’s greed;
In their midst, you call us foolish
Who would plant a different seed …
What do you require of dreamers
Leaving footprints in the sky?
Is it envy gnawing in you
That would suffocate our cry;
In your sterile disbelieving
Do you still shout, “Crucify!”
Ever have you scorned our treasure,
Shunned the beauty we would give,
Cast away the sun and roses
Of the star-born fugitive …
Ever was Life sung by dreamers
Who were not afraid to live!
                       September 22, 1954

.
Goodbye
.
Goodbye, I will not lift my lips to touch yours
In this farewell, or look into your eyes,
Instead, I’ll note how spring has come too early –
For still, within my heart, the winter lies!

Goodbye, and speak not now of a tomorrow,
Or say, in parting, that we still are friends,
For friendship cannot be for those once lovers –
The night comes quickly when the sun descends!
We’ve learned impassioned vows are made, then broken,
We know the fires of love consume, then die,
And leave no trace – no softly burning embers
To glow, but just the ultimate – goodbye!
                                   December 11, 1954
.

At Onslow Bay
.
Spare my wild heart words of logic,
Here upon the naked sand;
Love and cautious apprehension
Never have walked hand-in-hand!

See my small form straight, unbowing,
Braced against the ocean’s wind,
Think you, that I’ll halt and ponder
If I gave too much, or sinned?
Is your heart a door half-open
On intruders’ love and pain;
Better shut and bolt it tightly –
Let me weep out in the rain …
Stooping down, you find a seashell,
Hold it, listening, to your ear,
Heeding not my young heart drowning
In the roaring floodtide here!
                              December 16, 1954
.

Memorable
.
I crowned you with a golden crown
For which a prince might long;
I wrote you deathless in a poem;
I made your name a song,
And one dark night I burned your face
With kisses wild and strong.

But what cared you for crowns of gold?
The rhymes you never miss;
My poems you scarcely can recall;
Yet, you remember this:
That one dark night your heart was burned,
And by a young poet’s kiss.
                                      January 22, 1955
..
– Vivienne Stone,
.
These poems are excerpts from The Song of Joy and Pain. They are copyright protected and published here with Mike Stone’s Permission. 
.

BIOGRAPHY

Vivian Stone in a Red Dress.

VIVIAN STONE (a.k.a. Vivienne Stone) was born Vivian Ethel Hamm on November 16, 1927, in Reading Ohio, now a suburb of Cincinnati. She was the second of five children: Wilda (oldest), Vivian, George, Bobby, and Gloria (youngest). She attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  She eloped with Alvin W. Stone and they were married on June 15, 1946, in Newport, Kentucky. After the marriage they lived in Clintonville, Ohio. Vivian gave birth to Mike Stone on March 27, 1947 and to Victoria Stone on October 11, 1951.

Vivian and Alvin were divorced on November 5, 1954 when her children were three and seven, respectively. A legal agreement, approved by a Franklin County court judge, was signed saying that Dad would be awarded custody of the children. Vivian was allowed frequent visiting rights. She moved to  Virginia Lee Gardens in Columbus and subsequently married Irwin (Irv) Papish, a practicing psychiatrist from Cleveland, Ohio.

Irv was called up as an Army psychiatrist with the rank of captain and transferred down to a US base in Panama with his new wife, Vivian. Toward the end of Irv’s duty in Panama, Vivian and Irv adopted two infants, Lisa and Chris.

Vivian was killed in a freak pedestrian accident in which a local driver reached over for a pack of cigarettes and inadvertently swerved into her while she was walking by the side of the road to her next-door neighbors’ house. She died two weeks later, on December 20, 1961. She was buried Hillcrest Memorial Park, Bedford Heights, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Her poetry collection was published by her son, Mike Stone, on October 13, 2018.  The collection is available in paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited through Amazon US, UK, and around the world.

VIVIENNE, THE POET (Part 1): The Song of Joy and Pain (from my perspective), by poet Mike Stone

                      You deem me rude
To come and pierce your solitude. I know
More than you dream, how precious are your thoughts,
Guarded and unperceived. You see, dear heart,
We are but one. You are the child I was,
I am the poet grown that you will be.
Vivienne Stone, excerpt from Related (July 13, 1948)
….

“I never saw my mother’s book of poetry until a couple years ago (2018). I don’t remember seeing any of her poems or seeing her in the act of writing.” Mike Stone 



Editor’s Note: The photographs here belong to Mike and his family.  Please be respectful.  Note also that Mike’s mom changed the spelling of her name from Vivian to Vivienne, hence the discrepancy between the narrative and the name on the book and the header photograph. / J.D.

These are the dry facts of my life relating to my mother and her hand-written leather-bound book of poetry, The Song of Joy and Pain. The facts form a triangle in my mind: my father, my mother, and my stepmother.

My father and mother eloped and got married young. Dad was nineteen. Mom was eighteen. I was born nine months and twelve days later. My sister, Victoria, was born four-and-a-half years after me.

At this point, I must state that I have no factual memories of my mother prior to the age of thirteen. I have memories. They just aren’t factual; that is, whatever I might have remembered from personal experience had been supplanted by a collage of other people’s narratives and the few physical documents I happened to come across.

It has been said that we see only what we expect to see. I believe that the memories that we’ve experienced directly are replaced by parts of narratives that are associated with those experiences. Those narratives come to us from the people we trust.

Victoria and Mike
Victoria and Mike

Dad divorced Mom when I was seven years old. Victoria was three. This was when the narratives started. Dad’s narrative went like this: Mom was an unfit mother. She was hysterical. She beat me with a pancake turner. This was why he divorced her and sued for custody of my sister and me. She wrote “poetry” (deprecatingly said) and held poetry “salons” in which she would sit on the floor in a circle of “poetry” admirers. Dad hated these salons.

I never saw my mother’s book of poetry until a couple years ago (2018). I don’t remember seeing any of her poems or seeing her in the act of writing.

Dad remarried two years later. I was encouraged to call my stepmother “Mom”, although it was a few months before I felt able to do so. A new narrative began: our mother had never loved us. After a while, after calling my stepmother “Mom”, I began referring to my birthmother as “my biological mother” to avoid confusion when discussing her. As time went on, I just called my birthmother by her first name, “Vivian”.

Vivian remarried a year or so after the divorce. Her husband (Irv) was a psychiatrist. They visited my sister and me twice a year. Eventually, Irv was called up to the Army and they were transferred to Panama for three years. A few months before they were to be rotated Stateside, they adopted two infants, Lisa and Chris.

Three days before they were to fly back home, Vivian was killed in a freak pedestrian accident. I was fourteen when we received a letter informing us of her death.

Six years ago (2014), Lisa contacted my sister and me on Facebook. Although she was only an infant when Vivian was killed and had no direct memories of her, she had heard many stories about Vivian from Irv and also from friends of the family in Panama and America who knew Vivian and knew her history with my father, my sister, and me. The narratives Lisa had heard contradicted the narratives on which I was raised: Vivian had loved my sister and me very much. Dad’s family had been against the marriage and had forced my father to divorce Vivian or he would not receive any financial support from them. Vivian was unwilling to give up custody of us. Dad’s parents had Vivian committed to an insane asylum until she agreed to sign the divorce papers.

Lisa told my sister and me that Irv had sent her two hand-written leather-bound books of Vivian’s poetry, which were word-for-word copies of each other. Lisa had read Vivian’s poetry and it was clear to her from Vivian’s poems how much she had loved us.

Narratives against narratives. The ground shook under my feet. My childhood memories crashed and lay in ruins. I couldn’t imagine any possible motive for Lisa to lie about Vivian’s past, but I could imagine a few possible motives for my father and stepmother to lie to us.

Dad passed away in 2010. By 2017 our stepmother suffered from vascular dementia. We placed her in a 24/7 nursing care facility. She passed away in October 2019.

Vivienne Stone’s collection is available through Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited

How did I come into possession of my mother’s poetry collection?
Lisa had told my sister and me that she would be happy to give us one of the hand-written copies of our mother’s poetry. She sent the book to Victoria since Lisa lived in New York state and Victoria lived in Connecticut. I live in Israel. We didn’t trust the international postal carriers to get such a precious book to me in Israel, so the next time I went to Columbus Ohio to visit our stepmother in 2018, Victoria mailed the book to my cousin in Columbus who handed it to me when I arrived.

What did I think of her poems?
I love poetry, both the writing and reading of poetry; however, I’m very demanding of the poets and poetry that I read. Poets must be authentic in their expression. They must be brilliant. Poems must leap with originality. They must surprise me. I have scant patience for less-than-brilliant poets. My only rule in writing is that I write what I’d like to read.

Before I opened our mother’s book of poetry, I trembled in fear of what I was about to read. I was afraid that I would be disappointed, that her poetry would be just “poetry”, as Dad had described in deprecation.

I opened her book and read the first poem and then the next, and the next. Her poetry exceeded my wildest expectations. Her poems were beautiful; they were brilliant; and they were authentic. She wrote poems about everything and everyone around her, and how she felt about them. She wrote about how she loved my father as only a poet can love. She wrote of the betrayal she felt when Dad told her he was divorcing her. She wrote of the despair and loneliness she felt. She wrote about her thoughts of suicide.

How did I feel about her poems?
I believed every word my mother wrote. A poet who is authentic does not lie. If you must lie in a poem you write, then what is the point of writing the poem? The authentic poet needs to reveal his soul. Perhaps that is the difference between a poet and a wordsmith. A wordsmith connects one word to another, considering rhyme and meter, showing off his or her knowledge and vocabulary. A poet’s soul needs to peek out of his or her poetry.

Therefore, the truth about our mother and us cracked and crumbled the narratives of my childhood memories. I feel freed of my shackles. I feel empty though. I know my childhood memories are false, but her poems cannot replace my memories because I have no memories to replace.

I transcribed our mother’s poetry into digital form, using a script font reminiscent of her handwriting. There were fifty-four poems in all. I added a foreword and, at the end, poems that I had written about her, to her. It was a labor of love for me.

How did I feel?
I felt that my father had thrown away a goddess worth more than all the wealth his family had threatened to withhold from him. He should have stood up to his parents and protected his wife who had loved him with the purest of innocence. That is what I would have done if I had been in his shoes. I felt that my father had lied to us, to me, because he was ashamed of what he had done. I felt that our stepmother had lied to us because she had wanted us to love her instead of our mother.

In what ways did her poetry change me?
Her poetry made me return to my childhood to love and cherish her, retrospectively. In doing so, I’ve grown to love the little boy that I was once. Now, I am seventy-three years old. It’s about time.

© 2020, Mike Stone

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MIKE STONE (Uncollected Works) is a regular participant in The Poet by Day, Wednesday Writing Prompt. We are always delighted with the opportunity to read  and share his work.  Mike was born in Columbus Ohio, USA, in 1947 and was graduated from Ohio State University with a BA in Psychology. He served in both the US Army and the Israeli Defense Forces. He’s been writing poetry since he was a student at OSU and supports his writing habit by working as a computer networking security consultant. He moved to Israel in 1978 and lives in Raanana. He is married and has three sons and seven grandchildren. Mike’s Amazon Page is HERE. His work is recommended without reservation.