Sunday 3 June 2007
Mid 80s, full sun. I found a long stick in Sherwood to extend my umbrella. We’re dealing in extremes. I've got a blue-haired scarf and the gloves of an architect's daughter and a magic poncho that makes it rain upside down in my desk. Last week it was in the low 50s. I am prepared for nothing and everything and I never have the right clothing. I get wet and I get cold and too hot in the full sun. My anorak is too old to repel water but it keeps the wind out.
What are the extremes, the far extremes? What are our limits? What does the far end look like in every direction? Amma is hugging a never ending line of people from east to west. The yard bull is driving the longest railroad line kicking bums off the tracks with his big brown boot. He’s waking them with a shout, “Get out! Get out!”
Why is Knowing important? Knowing with our bodies? Knowing hot, for instance? Because knowing hot means knowing cold. Knowing Sleep! means knowing Wake! And knowing death must mean knowing life. Why would we avoid the extremes? We’ve got every shield from car to home to clothing to air-conditioning to husband to wife. Why would we avoid our loneliness? Why would we avoid our own skin?
What are the extremes?
I’ve been in a Berryman mood all week. Berryman's Dream Songs are working on me, finding a voice in me. They are a vex and a ha-ha. They are an empty rolling on a boxcar floor. Berryman has traveled down the railroad tracks with me, into alleys where the garbage men go and out onto flat beaches which slide to dark keys and ruined docks. “I am scared a only one thing, which is me/from othering I don’t take nothing, see/for any hound dog’s sake” (From Dream Song 40, The Dream Songs, Berryman].
The Wart brought something to override my mood, a new poet, a young poet from Brooklyn, Jennifer Michael Hecht. He read aloud from her book Funny, "One End of an Orange Cat," then "Family Life." Then he left me with the book. I read from it all day to whoever would stand for it. And everyone did. They stood for it all day. Her poems are long, 2-3 pages long, but the Circlers stood for it and every one of them expressed gratitude afterwards.
Hecht's poems have an instant appeal, the sort of appeal Billy Collins has. They are accessible, they are profound in layers, they have a few unexpected along with the expected turns. No one gets left out of a Hecht poem. And so I wasn't surprised to learn that Collins chose her for the 2005 Felix Pollak Prize, for which this book was publisher [University of Wisconsin].
Hecht builds upon a repertoire of common jokes– Horse walks into a bar, Chicken crosses the road, Farmer has a pig with 3 legs… Then she stretches the metaphor, takes it for a walk, goes down a road in a neighborhood we’ve never been to before, throws it on a lathe and scratches new information on it. Down it drops, our old joke, with a new imprint on it.
The results are hysterical and truthful, perhaps a bit formulaic but satisfying in the way we require a joke to be. In the end, her jokes, and poems, read as new jokes. It’s as if Jennifer were finally explaining what our old jokes meant. Oh, was there was something more, something I missed? I get it now. Yes, I see.
Barbara stopped by and listened to a long Hecht poem. She admitted that she herself wrote a poem once, but only one, once. She had it within her. And she had it with her. She said she records her thoughts most often when one of her children reaches a milestone. Maybe it makes her realize that she too has reached a milestone? Or maybe she missed her own milestones? Are her children's milestones overriding her own or framing them? Barbara has a daughter who recently turned 30. Out came a poem. She read it to us. The Wart and I stood in wonderment. It was a good poem, especially good for a woman who has written only one. You should write more, we said in unison.
NO MORE GLASS BEES
Did you that America is deadly short of bees? The funding for beekeepers (apiary guilds) was cut under the Clinton administration. I didn’t know. Reports read much the same from top sources like National Geographic and NPR.
Albert Einstein, on our need for bees, "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."
And so if the bees are really going, how can we ever, we the weakest link, find the narrative of our lives? We are one step from the menagerie. Out of the picture. Glass flowers will be all that’s left. They’ll wind up in some university museum. Who will be left to visit them?
MAY 5 HARPS
May Yuan brought another one of her ancient Chinese instrument to the meadow today. This time she played the guzheng. It was soothing. It came in little plates over my feet like the water over the shore and faded away. It brought waterfalls and pagodas and mountainsides and withered trees with it, all in blue ink. May brought her pipa and her guqin before. She is pursuing a lovely cultural exchange.