The village of Damariscotta Mills looked as though it had been scrubbed and polished, so bright was the light, so transparent the air, on the July afternoon when a taxi left us at a white clapboard house with green shutters, the home of Jean Stafford and Robert Lowell. Though we were not late, Cal (as he was called) greeted us as if he had been impatient for our arrival. Jean was down at the general store shopping, he said. He would take us up to our room. Our suitcases, heavy with books rather than clothing, he picked up as if they were no burden, and with an appealing gawkiness, loped up the stairs two at a time, his shirttail hanging out in back, his shoes loosely tied, his hair tousled. He was taller than I had remembered, with a sturdy back and strong arms.

    We had met only twice before, briefly at a Nation party and before that in Princeton when the Lowells had come down to see their old friend the novelist Caroline Gordon (Tate) who had arranged for us to have lunch together. At the Peacock Inn only Caroline had been at ease. The poets, who already knew and admired each other’s work, were diffident, Cal scowling and whispering, John holding his head as if his neck was in traction. Jean and I were only a little less wooden.