Mart Grams’ An Angel in My Garden is a loving documentation of the poet-speaker’s emotional journey through love, devotion, and grief, beginning before he met his wife Linda, throughout their long marriage and child-rearing together, and later in the aftermath of her death.
The collection contains a medley of free verse and rhyming poems written in English and Spanish, interspersed with short prose reflections, commentaries, sketches, paintings, and personal family photographs. It begins with an eclectic mix of topics from the speaker’s early life, including college. He ruminates on growing old (“I am what I was; I will be what I am./ For I am of the past, now will be the clay of the future”), Ronald Reagan’s invasion of Grenada; the speaker’s loneliness, and more.
As it progresses and the author/speaker meets Linda, the central theme becomes the speaker’s adoration of her: “Your love, as the smoke from my pipe,/ encircles me in its/ sheltering/ embrace.//Sweetness from the heavens falls on me/ With your lips near; the rain, it/ kisses the dust.”
The author offers some interesting moments throughout, such as the evocative pipe image above. Unfortunately, many word choices are well-worn (e.g. “veil of solitude” “soothing hands” “sweet softness of her, as silk.”) Additionally, the speaker often states his feelings about Linda, rather than bringing her to life with unique, showing details to engage readers’ senses.
Another limitation of this intensely personal, telling approach is the author’s explanations at the top of most pages, as if he doesn’t trust his work to speak for itself. It also creates redundancy; for instance, before “A Child is Born,” readers are told: “My thoughts after we went to the doctor. She [Linda] walked out a jewel—I panicked.” The accompanying poem merely reiterates this summary.
An Angel in My Garden is a passionate tribute to a beloved spouse. In its current form, however, it reads as a private work, not yet transformed for a wider readership.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.