The Perfect Book

 

You know I like books. This gem – a little antique companion I could carry in my pocket – arrived at cold Christmas and I was transported to a Persian garden. I lay on the floor under the glittering tree and read:

AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light.

Roses, wine, and time suspended – the imagery of romance… Contemplation, celebration, and carpe diem… Old Omar has it all. Words well-known to me in a book that had been loved but not too much, used but not too harshly. The perfect book.

Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly – and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

With me along the strip of Herbage strown
That just divides the desert from the sown,
Where name of Slave and Sultan is forgot –
And pity Sultan Mahmud on his Throne!

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Poetry

No, it’s not over. I’m still here. And it’s not that there hasn’t been plenty to say. I just haven’t. The assigned theme for poetry group last week was writer’s block. This is what I wrote:     

                            

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A variation of what I wrote in November. October had enough inspiration in it to keep me making poems for years to come, but I’m better at finding poetry than at making it. Yesterday I found it in the sky; birds. They were not geese and there was no V formation. No MC Escher imitation of birds turning in sync, now snowy breast, now silver wing. Just birds. Black ones, plain and graceless and all the more beautiful because. They reminded me of this by Gerard Manley Hopkins:      

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things–      

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;      

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;      

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;      

Landscape plotted and pieced–fold, fallow, and plough;      

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.      

All things counter, original, spare, strange;      

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)      

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;      

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:      

Praise Him.

The Sea

THE SEA! the sea! the open sea!

The blue, the fresh, the ever free!

Without a mark, without a bound,

It runneth the earth’s wide regions round;

It plays with the clouds; it mocks the skies;

Or like a cradled creature lies…

We’re on a tiny strip of land caught between the sound and the sea.  It’s a magical place. Here my running acquaintance husband turns into a surfer and my children change back into the mermaids and mermen they really are. They’re splashing in the pool now, laughing like seals, happy. A magical sound.

One Less Scoundrel

 

Jean de la Bruyere visited me Sunday afternoon when I had fallen asleep with a poetry book on my face. He asked what business I had messing with poetry. I asked what business a 17th century Frenchman had lecturing me in my dreams. He adjusted his periwig, put his hands on his hips and quoted himself in a ridiculous fake French accent. “There are certain things in which mediocrity is intolerable: poetry, music, painting, public eloquence. What torture it is to hear a frigid speech being pompously declaimed, or second-rate verse spoken with all a bad poet’s bombast!” Well. How could I answer that? The man had a point.

Then I woke. When I took the book off my face, Ted Kooser, Poet, said to me: “Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what could be wrong with a world in which everybody were writing poems? After all, there’s a significant service to humanity in spending time doing no harm. While you’re writing your poem, there’s one less scoundrel in the world.” I like Ted. I think I’ll keep right on writing bad poetry. It keeps me amused and sometimes out of trouble even. Sometimes.

Flowers for the Soul

At dawn I snuck out of the house. At eighteen I was sneaking in with the light. How life has changed!

Grocery shopping is fun with kids. Especially when you drive into town and find that someone forgot shoes. My daughter, the young Imelda Marcos, has more shoes (and better) than I have owned in my entire life and yet she can’t remember to wear them. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how many times she’s left her shoes at other people’s houses and come home barefoot. Then again, maybe you would. She’s probably left a pair at your house. The pixie seems determined to follow in her sootsteps, literally. Luckily, they also leave shoes in the car constantly so if we dig under the seats two or three shoes usually turn up. They’re bound to fit someone.

Before anyone can leave the car we review the rules. There’s an oath to be sworn.

“How do we behave in public?”

“Like human beings.”

“And what are we NOT going to do?”

“Scream.” “Cry.”

“And?”

“BEg.”

“Excellent. What else?”

“Fall on the floor and act like idiots.”

“Exactly. Will there be running?”

“No.”

“Will we act like pirates, punks, mangy mutts, aliens, swarms of killer bees -”

“No! It’s hot out here.”

“I know what little lawyers some of you are. I want to be sure to cover everything.”

“We’ll be good! Can we go in now?”

“You have to promise.”

And, after all that, they are good. Most of the time. When they’re not we leave. Immediately. No threats, no discussion. It’s over. I’m tough.

I hate being tough. So much easier to go while they’re sleeping. Quiet. The car radio still doesn’t work but – surprisingly – my mind does. As I pulled into a parking spot I found myself admiring the sunrise over a big boring box of architectural disgrace and wondering at things larger than myself. I grabbed a cart and looked down at my list. The realization hit me full force. I don’t want any of these things. Eggs? Sugar? Flour? Who cares? Who. Cares. This wasn’t a list of my needs. It looked like a list written in another language to me right then. I didn’t write it. Someone else must have. Had I written it, it might have said:

  • time
  • freedom
  • a studio
  • plane tickets
  • chai (latte)
  • intimacy
  • understanding

Not all this domestic nonsense. Someone bumped me with their cart, interrupting my thoughts. Just as well. The first thing I saw in the store though were flowers and I was reminded of my pal Sheila’s wonderful poem. Sheila’s poem had reminded me of this old friend of mine:

If thou of fortune be bereft,

And in thy store there be but left,

Two loaves, sell one, and with the dole,

Buy Hyacinths to feed thy soul.

Moslih Eddin Saadi

I will have flowers. Whether I can afford them or not and even if no one ever sees them but me. I will.

They were the gaudiest flowers I’d ever seen. Day-glo colored roses. I wavered. There were gladiolas in slightly softer colors. Not quite as hideous as the others, but my mother always hated glads. She said they reminded her of my sister’s funeral and so I came to hate them too. You know what though? I have no memories of my sister’s funeral. Diana died thirty-four years ago today. Why not celebrate her? I put the yellow gladiolas in the cart without ever looking at the price tag. Then I went in search of eggs.

Another really swell thing about shopping for groceries at six in the morning? No one else is shopping then. I had the store, with its newly stocked shelves, all to myself. I had the cashier, with her disdain for canvas bags, all to myself. Here’s a special note to all you checkers and baggers in groceries across America: It’s not that hard and you’re getting paid to do it. Roll your eyes at the wrong tired mother trying to leave a little space in the landfill for her children’s children and you’re liable to get a fat lip. I didn’t have any kids hanging off me at the moment though so I just laughed as she struggled with my floppy bags. I had bright yellow flowers in my cart. What did I care what she thought?

My girls came downstairs as I was fitting the flowers in a vase. “Are those flowers for you, Mom?” my pixie asked. Yes. They are.