friday roundup: heat wave edition with fragments, ruins, and katydid

IMG_5564Dear Reader, it is so hot. Or as we say in California, It is sayyyew hawt. And even though on the Peninsula we say it is sayyyew hawt when it hits 82 degrees, this time we mean it. Temps at or above 100 all week (today, a little relief: forecasted high of 93). Have I ever mentioned that the Wee, Small House has no AC? Well, enough about me. I have one of the easiest and most comfortable lives on the planet, and it is raining on refugees in Europe, but I am really looking forward to the mid-70s we’re supposed to have next week.

In other news, meet my morning companion (pictured, above). As I drafted (a draft so sad and middling that, yes, I re-touched it out of the photo), this little katydid appeared on my desk. She was harmless enough but I do wonder from whence she came. I put in a request with Tech Support and they came, humanely captured her, and returned her to her natural habitat.

Now, on to the roundup.

more words  I am still reading (at this point, re-reading) Stanley Plumly’s essays. I am still looking up words that are new to me (gantry—a bridge-like overhead structure supporting equipment such as a crane or railway signals; autotelic—(of an activity or creative work) having an end or purpose in itself) and the words that I’ve been looking up for years and have a sense of, but when pressed, can’t articulate clearly, so, dictionary (ontological—having to do with the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being; declension(in the grammar of Latin, Greek, and other languages) the variation of the form of a noun, pronoun, or adjective, by which its grammatical case, number, and gender are identified; panegyrica public speech or published text in praise of someone or something). Sometimes I want a bigger brain.

these fragments Sometimes I read something that simultaneously just about kills me and saves my life. From Plumly’s essay “Wistman’s Wood” (P.S. Whistman’s Wood is a pocket of ancient woodland in Devon):

“The room in ruins—that is what a spot in Wistman’s Wood is in winter. The winter wood reminds us of our poet origins, of the spiritual space and longing even in a child, who follows us from place to lost place. The winter wood reminds us that dark and windswept memory is more vital than a green thought in a green shade and that the setting of that memory is in the moment in the space that represents the truth. Sitting in the room you write in, you sit within the tangle and the winter mist. The leaves have long since blown into corners. You sit there with the hard language and memory in front of you and you feel yourself disappearing. Wonderful. These fragments I have shored against my ruins.” –Stanley Plumly

That last sentence is, of course, from Eliot, “The Wasteland,” but I’m ready to award a Pushcart for Plumly’s repurposing of the line here.

The Poem  The poem for this week’s roundup is called “The Poem.” Really. One problem I have when I’m reading almost anything is that, if another book or poet or poem is mentioned, I can’t help myself—I have to go read that other book or poet or poem even though I really don’t have the time… (the things we do to ourselves…). So I did that this week, tracking down a copy of Marvin Bell‘s 1977 book Stars Which See, Stars Which Do Not See. “The Poem” is the opening poem in this book and while I usually shy away from poetry about poetry, this poem seemed accurate in an important way to me. Here it is:

*

THE POEM by Marvin Bell

Would you like me more
if I were a woman?
Would you treat me better
were I a man?
I am just words, no
not words even, just marks
on a page, tokens of what?
Oh, you know.
Then tell them, will you.
Tell them to stop looking for me.
Tell them I never left home.
Tell them, if you must,
that I never left my body.
Unlike so many others,
I never had wings, only shoulders.
I was, like the snow bunting,
of tout build but moderate size.
Better make that “exceedingly” moderate size.
I neither blessed nor cursed
but that the good suffered
and evil closed the books in triumph.
I cured no one.
When I died, my bones
turned to dust, not diamonds.
At best, a tooth or two became coal.
How long it took.
You would have liked me then,
had you been alive still.
Had you survived
the silliness of the self,
you would have treated me better.
I never lied to you,
once I had grown up.
When x told you you were wonderful,
I said only that you existed.
When y said that you were awful,
I said only that life continues.
I did not mean a life like yours.
Not life so proud to be life.
Not life reduced to this life or that life.
Not life as something—to see or won.
Not life as a form of life
which wants wings it doesn’t have
and a skeleton of jewels,
not this one of bones and becoming.
How perfect are my words now,
in your absence!
Ungainly yet mild perhaps,
taking the place of no field,
offering neither to stand in the place of a tree
nor where the water was,
neither under your heel or floating,
just gradually appearing,
gainless and insubstantial,
near you always,
asking you to dance.
*

I’ll be taking a blog break next week. Deadline looming. Peace to all of you and the whole wide world today. Say ‘yes’ when the poem asks you to dance. ;).

2 thoughts on “friday roundup: heat wave edition with fragments, ruins, and katydid

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