April is poetry month, and although there are many famous and fabulous poets to acknowledge and praise, I want share a poem my father wrote. Dad loved to write poetry. Dad was sensitive, and his poems allowed him to express himself in words that might have been hard to call up in speech.
Among the archives of letters, diaries, musings, and other writing my family saved across the entire 20th century, were many of the poems my dad had written. He wrote sentimental poems, like the one reproduced here, but also funny and amusing ones, and even off-color limericks. He was a man who liked words, and I’m certain that because both he and my mother took the time out of hectic days to write either in journals, to write letters, or to write poetry, I developed a love of words too.
Dad wrote this love poem to Mom for Christmas, 1952. A month earlier they had celebrated their tenth anniversary, for which Dad had written a beautiful poem, reminiscing over their wedding and what they now meant to each other. They often shared that poem with us children, and it was proof to us that their love was strong.
But beneath the surface were currents of unrest that were churning their relationship: dad’s lengthy travel for his job, Mom’s mentally ill mother who lived with us, the endless stress and work of running and maintaining a rooming house with a total of eleven tenants, some actually renting bedrooms in our own flat (even as Dad had to be away for weeks at a time).
I believe this poem, along with the tenth anniversary poem, was Dad’s effort to show Mom how much he truly loved her, even if their path was rocky. Here, in his original handwriting, is “I Will be Yours.” He makes a few spelling errors, but they pale within the emotion.
I Will Be Yours
My love, I will do anything
You ever ask of me
Because you wear my wedding ring
For all the world to see.
Because you are so sweet and fair
Affectionate and true.
Because I create the very air
God set aside for you.
And I will cherish you above
All other dreams I know
Just because you are my love
Because I love you so.
I will deserve a better name
and justify your pride,
Because you graciously became
My sweetheart and my bride
I will be yours till I grow old
And yours in every way
I will be yours to have and hold
Forever and for aye.
One of my goals in writing my book, Redlined, was to not only explore what redlining had done to my neighborhood, but what forces had undermined my parents’ wonderful love over time. As they struggled to nurture tenants and buildings in Chicago’s fracturing community of West Garfield Park, they simultaneously found their own relationship unraveling.
Redlined tells a first-hand story about a West Side Chicago family’s personal struggles and dreams intersecting with the racial upheavals of the 1960s.