Wednesday, June 20, 2007

sometimes they let the poets loose

Last night, due to her mother's hospitalization and our own myriad distractions, Eireann suggested we instead take a walk downt o Minnehaha Park and write and read out loud to one another. Our general format has been to sit in a circle in her living room, discuss our reading, do a prompt, critique. Lately, we've needed a little poke, something to get us moving. I don't know if it is uncertainty, or the distractions in our lives, or that there isn't enough to say, but we've felt a little slow, a little quiet, sometimes a little like (to use a cliche), pulling teeth.

The walk was refreshing, nice movement, a little change. We took a meandering route, stopped at the edge of a Catholic grade school to listen to a bagpipe rehearsal. So many, dressed like ordinary people... I will share what I wrote from the walk, rough and raw:

The poets have been let loose in the garden
and all they can hear are bagpipes.
They come from St Helena, the Catholic
grade school, that mournful sound
that fills up rooms like chalk dust.
There are globes in the window, the sort
w all saw in childhood. And
in the parking lot, there are still more,
looking like American tourists
in tshirts and shorts, sneakered feet
shifting the formation. We are all
tourists here, in this life, and let loose,
we are startled by the raw red
of tree stumps, a collection of mallards
(how perfect the pairs), the reflection
of trees in the creek like watercolor.
So many have paused by the bagpipes--
a father who lifts his infant
like an airplane, a man walking his dog,
a new family with a double stroller.
We are all tourists here, against
the backdrop of colored shingles,
blacktop pavement, and summer light.

The house, above, where Longfellow lived. Song of Hiawatha. Minnehaha Parkway. Street lamps, night shimmering, mosquitoes rising out of dry grass. The color of nylons matching the green of the grass just as the sun hits it. Singing "Favorite Things," two small voices, whispering, "Wait, wait, let's try to harmonize this time." Laughter. Spot lit hostas, a bike ride, big dogs who can sit and stay. Frightened ducks, all in formation, lining up against the current. Lingering. Summer, lingering.

In some ways, this was good. Eireann says she's had too many writing groups that ended up socializing too much; this group, I think, hasn't had the chance to socialize enough. We need to speak to each other in order to trust each other, offer up little tidbits (sister Tessa getting married August something, working for a gardening place and taking care of a cat and a gerbil for the summer, working at Coffee House press, living at home, finding ways to recover from a family near-tragedy). We can become more human. Appreciate each other's voices. It's good to not know too much, because then we have trouble separate the poet from the poem, but just enough to feel comfortable saying: "Don't do the obvious things here. Of course cigarette smoke is in a cloud. Tequila, ash trays. That's a little better." And to say, "I am interested in line breaks," and want to know more about how line breaks function in the poet's world--to be able to rest on the words, the narrative, the passion of poetry. That's what I think we're beginning to do, appreciating each other in new light. Understanding that she knows her Latin, her greenery, she will write narrow poems about relationships, she will struggle to not write about herself, he has a series of poems and another he has one long poem, maybe even in translation. To speak French. To listen to French. To talk about "Macdo" and lavender and dreams of other countries. To travel through each other's words (especially when mortgages keep some of us rooted in geography). To hope, to hope, to dream. To be comrades in words.

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