Fifth and Final. Said that way, it sounds like the intersection of two streets. The full phrase, however, reads, “Anna Pottier, fifth and final wife of the poet, Irving Layton.”
It is an intersection of sorts, this meeting of two separate worlds, which became an universe unto itself, at least within the confines of our various homes. As with the existence of the night sky, no one questions whether it is there, or just how real it is. So too no one seemed eager to notice my indigo to Irving’s stellar light show, his dazzling successes vying one with the other for attention and the right kind of awe.
The right kind of awe. Note the distinction. Each time he expended himself to craft as perfect a poem as could be made on whatever subject; be it love, human perfidy, a cat dying in autumn, he did so with the energy and creative force that would have burned anyone else out by the age of 35. And that is the fire that still corollas and aureoles around each masterpiece he left behind. God’s recording angel. His peculiar gift was his ability to absorb, digest, and give back in language that will resonate for ages hence.
He was perhaps the humblest, most modest man I have ever met. Was he proud of his talent? Yes. Rightly so. Anyone would be. But what he wanted people to notice were his poems, not himself personally. The power and conviction with which he wrote was, simply put, a gift. So for journalists to still write ad nauseum about his egomania and that vaunted arrogance, I say, “close your pie holes and read the man’s work.”
Many times he would say to me that all he ever wanted was immortality, not fame. “Fame,” he’d declare, eyes bright with mischief, “is the jam on the bread of immortality.” He wanted that bread, not the jam. I swear by all that is holy or valuable to whomsoever reads this, he meant it.
And so, there I was, young, strong, and indefatigable, my life suddenly and forever enmeshed in that of Irving Layton’s. Yes, he was 48 years my senior. What does matter when our souls were both roughly thousands of years old, and our spirits that of careening teen-agers? The fact that I was mocked to my face for believing he was a genius says more about my tormentor(s) than about me. I gave myself the mandate of making his life as comfortable, harmonious, and productive as possible. It was my choice, my desire, my mission if you will, to help with the harvesting.
Warming up, trying to wrap my mind around the story. This book of mine is asking to be written. Screamingly so.