Leyden poet strives to see beauty, as well as loss
When Lisa Limont was a kid growing up near the sea in Scituate, she and her four siblings played ball on their big lawn or horsed around with their dad, who Limont described as “a really fun guy.”
Her parents had five kids within five years: two boys and three girls. “A tribe,” Limont said. “We were very much in each other’s worlds all the time. We were very, very close.”
The Limonts’ closeness and capacity for fun made her family unusual, she added. Hers was the house other kids wanted to come to because, “We knew how to have a good time.”
So, when Limont sat down and closed her eyes to envision her childhood home, an exercise she was using to call up material for a memoir she and her sister were writing, she didn’t expect what she found.
“I did that exercise and I was really shocked by the sadness,” Limont said. “I didn’t feel it at the time.”
And this may seem odd because another thing that made Limont’s family unusual was that three of her four siblings — her older brother and both of her younger sisters — had muscular dystrophy, a degenerative condition that weakens the musculoskeletal system. Her fourth sibling, a younger brother, was diagnosed as “retarded” because he was severely dyslexic. (He has gone on to become a successful businessman, Limont said.)
“In my family, normal was not ‘normal,’” Limont said. There were constant adjustments to be made as her three siblings became more and more disabled. Maybe there just wasn’t time to feel sad. Or maybe, “We just thought, ‘This is it. This is the way life is.’”
The revelation that what she had always thought of as her happy childhood was twined through with sadness spurred Limont to write the poem, “Funny, Sadness,” which was a finalist in last year’s Poet’s Seat Poetry Contest.
Limont, who lives in Leyden and works at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, was in between jobs this time last year. She had always wanted to write more, she said, so she decided to use the upcoming contest deadline as a motivation to write and refine some poems. Limont had entered the contest in 2012 and not placed but that didn’t deter her.
“I love the Poet’s Seat Contest,” Limont said, listing as reasons that it is local; open to both adults and youth; that it is tied in with the Greenfield Public Library; and that, “They publish that lovely book with all the finalists.”
“There’s no feeling bad anywhere in the process,” she added. “I mean, sure, you feel bad if you don’t get something but I found it very rewarding to submit the poems, which is why I did it the second year.”
And Limont plans to submit poems by this year’s March 10 deadline, too.
“Funny, sadness/ was always there and therefore unremarkable,” Limont’s poem begins. Addressed to her older brother, Mark, who died as a result of the degenerative affects of MD in 2009, Limont’s first stanza describes laughing and singing as the siblings walk to a brook, then ends disarmingly with the question: “Remember when you could walk?”
Her brother’s death came at the end of a string of losses for Limont and her husband, Jack Golden. In the fall of 2009, Golden’s sister died of lung cancer in September; Limont’s youngest sister took her own life in October; and then, in November, her brother Mark died.
“So that was a very interesting time to be thinking about death and loss and life,” Limont said. Not all of her thoughts or feelings were “sad and hard and negative.”
“We all grapple with these concepts,” she said. “They’re so big. Death is huge. And death is unavoidable. So, on some level, it has to be OK, you know? Because otherwise, you fight reality.”
When she was a kid, nobody talked about death. “It was too hard and scary,” Limont said.
As an adult, she challenges herself not to hide from the topic of death. “It is so inevitable and so ubiquitous, why not get to a place where it’s more integrated into our lives?” she asked.
There are very few models for how to do that, Limont said. “But I think that we can start by talking about it and thinking about it and seeing the beautiful things that go hand in hand with death and loss.”
“You know, the older I get, the more I feel like the contradictions, the things that seem to be contradictory, aren’t,” she continued. “Joy and sorrow, for example, are very much the same thing. And very inter-connected. To try to let yourself feel how true that is, is lovely. And we don’t often do it. We try to protect ourselves — get away from the sorrow and the loss and go to the happiness.
“I think you can feel more fully happy if you let in all of those things. And you know, it’s easy to say but it’s harder to really do. But I’m tryin’,” Limont said, her eyes alert, her face showing the beginnings of a smile. “I’m trying to do that.”
Trish Crapo is a writer and photographer who lives in Leyden. She always looking for Franklin County poets with recent publications or interesting projects to interview for her column. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.