The Battlefield Where the Girls Say I Love You



That's just the thing: we will never tell you we love you. In fact, we're here only to hold hands across state lines and yell at the world. We're here to try to touch you across this chasm of flown things. Not even that. At most, I will teach you how to make a gin smoothie when there's nothing left in the house. Hannah can teach you several languages and what to do when your car breaks up with you. Thanks for coming out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

dear blog:

you are the child we have stayed together for. while hannah sits cross-armed on the balcony watching kayakers turn themselves in circles on the sound, i am waving my arms in front of your face and gifting you with thoughtless, easy things. and, while i would take this opportunity to post a playlist, seems i've only been listening to three albums this month: jenny lewis' acid tongue, langhorne slim's restless, and (obviously) T.I.'s papertrail. i just don't see how i could make that cohesive.
only, hannah and i are fine. we're not splitting up. i'm visiting this thursday for beers and dinner and sparkling wine and ping-pong and nick and norah's infinite playlist and walks on the beach at sunset. so, blog, perhaps you are the affair we can't quite move past. something like that.

what i will do in this post is shamelessly promote two books:

I. as you all know, george and i have taught alongside each other for 43 years (move on. he's the only one who's supposed to get that joke). he hates the blog, which doesn't stop him from reading it. when especially bored, he likes to make fun of me in his work (please check out the latest kenyon review, wherein a ten year-old named may-may is portrayed as a spoiled brat who's always hungry and trails behind all the other kids, drinking coffee). he even does so in his new book, pep talks, warnings & screeds:

number 30: if at all possible, take a poetry-writing class or two. please don't hang out with poets a bunch--this is a vast generalization here, but what the heck--because inevitably one of them will say, "poetry is so hard!" or "i worked twenty minutes today on a quatrain!" or "do you want some room for cream in your coffee?" or "i can't stand poets who rhyme" or "i love poets who rhyme" or "we have a special today on bran muffins."

daniel wallace (author of big fish) illustrates the book. anyway, it's pure awesome.

II. i thought i was done with this whole crying in the classroom business. i did it once out of pure frustration two years ago when i didn't know quite what i was doing and the students didn't seem much to care anyhow. but last week, i cried for a much more embarrassing reason. we were reading galway kinnell's strong is your hold and i read the first poem aloud. in the middle i just got all choked up and proceeded to try to stop crying by explaining myself and, inexplicably, snapping my fingers. anyway, you can imagine: i looked nuts, and couldn't stop repeating, "it's just so beautiful. it's just so beautiful."

the stone table

here on the hill behind the house,
we sit with our feet up on the edge
of the eight-by-ten stone slab
that was once the floor of the cow pass
that the cows used, getting from one pasture
to the other without setting a hoof
on the dirt road lying between them.

from here we can see the blackberry thicket,
the maple sapling the moose slashed
with his cutting teeth, turning it
scarlet too early, the bluebird boxes
flown from now, the one tree left
of the ancient orchard popped out
all over with saffron and rosy,
subacid pie apples, smaller crabs grafted
with scions of old varieties, freedom,
sops-of-wine, wolf river, and trees
we put in ourselves, dotted with red lumps.

we speak in whispers: fifty feet away,
under a red spruce, a yearling bear
lolls on its belly eating clover.
abruptly it sits up. did i touch my wine glass
to the table, setting it humming?
the bear peers about with the bleary undressedness
of old people who have mislaid their eyeglasses.
it ups its muzzle and sniffs. it fixes us,
whirls, and plunges into the woods--
a few cracklings and shatterings, and all is still.

as often happens, we find ourselves
thinking similar thoughts, this time of a friend
who lives to the south of that row of peaks
burnt yellow in the sunset. about now,
he will be paying his daily visit to her grave,
reading by heart the words, cut into black granite,
that she had written for him, when they
both thought he would die first:
I BELIEVE IN THE MIRACLES OF ART BUT WHAT
PRODIGY WILL KEEP YOU SAFE BESIDE ME.
or is he back by now, in his half-empty house,
talking in ink to a piece of paper?

i, who so often used to wish to float free
of earth, now with all my being want to stay,
to climb with you on other evenings to this stone,
maybe finding a bear, or a coyote, like
the one who, at dusk, a week ago, passed
in his scissorish gait ten feet from where we sat--
this earth we attach ourselves to so fiercely,
like scions of sheffield seek-no-furthers
grafted for our lifetimes into paradise root-stock.

2 comments:

pamela said...

My AP English teacher cried while reading Robert Frost's "Bereft" aloud.

I can still quote that poem

julia said...

an adorable image. the crying. the snapping? i'm not so sure.