Owen Lewis: “When a man loves a woman…”

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: May 04, 2017

When we last read Owen Lewis, it was 2015, and the psychiatrist/teacher/poet had just published “Best Man.” The title could not have been more ironic or bittersweet — the 23 poems were about his brother Jason, who died in 1980, age 23. Jason was the tragedy every family fears: a bright, drugged thief and liar. Here the dead talk, and the survivor talks back. [To buy the paperback of “Best Man” from Amazon, click here.] “Marriage Map,” in contrast, is about his enviable second marriage. The quotation from Homer that is the book’s epigram signals the tone: “There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife.” But a second marriage invariably invites contrasts. In the first poem, “The day I met you/ a crane fell, smashing cars, slicing six/ stories of corners off a building.” Owen calls Susan to explain the trouble. She says she has a “Plan B.” He’s breathless. More accurately, she’s holding his breath — the breath of a man whose marriage is, like the crane, collapsing. The last line: “Who had ever considered for me a ‘Plan B’?” In these poems, love revives him, strengthens and affirms him. But not without cost. In a second marriage, you can’t avoid the shadows of all that’s come before: “We bring an in-gathering/ of exiles, taken from themselves/ scattered along the rivers of home.” So here are his brother, parents, first wife. Shining through is the simple fact of an abiding romance: “We make of time what we will… This wedding starts again, forever.” These poems are moonlight through a bedroom window. [To buy “Marriage Map” from Amazon, click here.]