Sunday 23 July 2006
I walked to Green Lake this morning, ill-tempered, light-headed, with a coin-sized pain in my right temple, a frozen water bottle on my shoulder. I recited the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock to the trees. To the rower on the water's surface, in the shadow of the bridge. To the broken, heartless hotels, lined up like pinball machines, along Aurora.
I set up my desk in the shade of a young tulip tree. My umbrella bloomed instantly. It is already ticking, the black fabric, in the heat. Crows are flying low, catching the shade.
What a hushed stream Aurora is. The path, too, is quiet. Only the crows are calling.
Tulip trees can live to be 150 and grow to be 114' tall. This theatre of tulip trees is too immature to protect me. But think of the shade in 2080!
Or am I drifting in a fleet? A lantern on the lake? Northern Indians used the tulip tree for carving canoes.
Behind me, three crows by the woods, in the browning grass. In Seattle we are practiced at forgiving the sun.
If on a hot day, a cool grape. If on a hot day when your muscles ache. If on a hot day, a cool grape to roll over your chin. A black grape pressed into a cradle, wobbled across a cheek. Can you sense the pressure of a liquid against its skin? Even this object, so small a weight, plays upon your muscles, pushes the blood around.
Form a double in your mind. It is a different shape than measure gives. What can you learn from the rotations that take this grape across your face? What do you measure in grape?
Do you understand? They just rollerblade by and say the word. And I hear them. "Poet." That is enough.
I walked with my umbrella down to the lake and stood in the water. From my black willow, I can see the summit cap of Mount Rainier. It is 90F in the shade. I dare say this shall be the warmest day of the project.
12:43 The bells are singing up from the valley. Black hemlines over a stone floor. A donkey is tied in the alley. Mortars are crushing lavender, opening purses of fragrance.
For someone with no dog and no baby, for someone not swimming, not fishing and not capturing an image, the woman under the black willow has been standing too long. Perhaps she is making a phone call, concentrating on a voice? Later she came to talk to me. A Chinese-American, Wendy moved to Seattle from Michigan one year ago. Her mother visited this May and purchased two goldfish friends for her. This morning one of them died. Wendy came to Green Lake to look for a resting spot for "Cloud." She found my black willow. And the ducks, and squirrels, and schools of minnows. "Cloud" will be happy here.
The name of the other fish? Shi, the Chinese word for "Poet." Hmm. There are rushes and sedges, there is velvet grass under my willow. There is a cloud too under my willow.
Kim and Monica, two writers, were the first to drop by today. "What you're doing, seeing you here, just lifts me up." They have been putting off a project for months. They say I've given them incentive to begin. Ole!
Novelists - just beginning, half way through and about to have their books published - have stopped by to pay their respects. I have been told about writers, websites, reading series and retreats. On average, 30 people veer off the path each Sunday to talk to me. Writers, readers, artists, dancers – the curious and thirsty.
I counted the traffic on the path this morning between 9:49 and 9:50am. In this one minute, 8 joggers, 10 walkers, 1 bicyclist, 1 rollerblader, 1 baby and 1 dog passed by. 22 moving bodies.
A repeat customer, Ross came by to ask what I had to offer this Sunday. "Richard Siken," I said. He's standing now, under my left tulip, in jeans, on a hot day, with hand weights, reading.
I also have Stevens and Stafford on my desk, along with two issues of Crab Creek Review, an issue of Snow Monkey and a book on craft, Best Words, Best Order by Dobyns.
My most thought provoking visitor, Joel, challenged the use of the enigma in poetry. Now what does _that_ mean? He called Prufrock into question. Not Prufrock!