Saturday, July 30, 2016

Yesterday I stayed up too late in a bar while playing rock and roll.

I worked on a poem but reached the stage at which I had to admit that two-thirds of it is garbage.

I was happy, happy, happy to see Tom again.

I read a newspaper article about the mother of one of my son's K-8 schoolmates, who has been arrested for trying to burn down a house while her estranged husband was inside sleeping.

Hold onto your ho-hum delights, my friends. Arson makes things a lot worse.

Friday, July 29, 2016

When I was little, I imagined being many, many things when I grew up, but being president of the United States was not one of them. Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan . . . these were the figureheads of my childhood. A bundle of fist clenchers and jowl shakers. A pack of old-man trading cards.

This year I voted for Sanders in the Democratic primary. Another old-man for the pack of trading cards, yes, but I like progressives, and I wondered what would happen if enough of us tried to have a voice. And interesting things did happen, but that is a story for another day. Because he was beaten by a woman.

A woman!

I did not expect to be so moved by this, so incredulous. After all, I grew up thinking that presidents were the most boring people on earth. I imagined being Dickens, or Menuhin, or Keats, or Baldwin. I did not imagine being Gerald Ford.

But a woman! This morning I feel, for some reason, ten feet tall. Look! One of us! Look!

I keep reminding myself, "Surely you would not feel the same if Sarah Palin were in this position. What's with this happiness? You didn't even vote for Clinton."

What I am imagining is the joy of the Grimke sisters, of Lucretia Mott, of Susan B. Anthony, of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Anti-suffragette postcard, 1925

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Well, today is my oldest son's 22nd birthday, and he is celebrating by moving to Chicago to start a job at a TV show. It is a big moment for him, and for all of us--grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, childhood friends . . . everyone who has loved him over the course of his life.

Good teachers work to teach themselves out of a job. Family goals are not so stark, but still, most parents do know, from the beginning, that the best-case scenario means that a child will eventually leave home. My hope has been that my sons would go forth into the world at moments when they were overflowing with excitement, ambition, curiosity, confidence, affection. And in fact, that has happened with James. Tom and I somehow managed to produce a man who loves to work hard, has tremendous social skills, is clever with his hands, and has an artist's eye. He also tells jokes, makes good coffee, is a master at political sarcasm, reads Dostoyesvky, adores dogs, rides his bike, does dishes without being asked, plays ping-pong with little cousins, knows how to set a mousetrap, and says "I love you" when he's talking to his mother on the phone. What more could I ask for?

Godspeed, dear boy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I have to get up from this chair now and go mow grass, before the temperature climbs to 90 and I risk killing myself. I tell you: it's been years since I've gotten so much use out of my summer clothes.

Anyway, as I procrastinate over this last cup of coffee, I'll mention a couple of things. First, my band Doughty Hill is playing music on Friday at Pastimes in Dover-Foxcroft, 6:30-9:30, should you be local and/or capable of transporting yourself across time and space.

Second, this is to those of you who responded with interest to a poetry-reading project: As you know, I am loath to post copyrighted poems on this blog without permission. It is not only illegal but also unfair to the copyright holder. As we did for Tu Fu, we would have work around that situation, either with our own hard copies or by using poems that are easily available on, say, the Poetry Foundation site.

In my opinion we've done just about all we can do with Tu Fu, and one respondent has suggested shifting to Rilke. We did read his Letters to a Young Poet together last year, but his poems are a whole different kettle of fish [I do love that phrase]. There is a translation issue, but Stephen Mitchell's The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke is a good version that is readily available.

Another option would be to consider individual Rilke poems that are already online. Each person involved could take turns leading the discussion of a chosen poem from the Poetry Foundation site. The poem leader could email me some opening commentary about his or her chosen poem. I would post it here, and then the comments section would be open for response. Personally, I like this idea because it takes me off the dais. How do the rest of you feel?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Political Post

I did not listen to the speakers at the Democratic National Convention last night. I sat in my yellow chair beside a rainy window and worked on a new poem. Then I read a few pages of Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters. Then I watched part of The Sting. Then I went to bed.

I am deeply cynical about the Machiavellian machinations embedded into every side of the American political story. I am weary of publicity galas and wary of quotable enthusiasms. I'm glad that my liberal friends were so happy about the speeches last night, but I was unable to watch them.

Still, there is no question about whom I will vote for this fall. Whatever discomfort I feel with the Democrats and with the general awfulness of American grandstanding pales beside the stark monstrosity of the future: Donald Trump must not become president of the United States.

I am no fan of Ted Cruz, but I know he's right when he asks, "How can I support a candidate who ridiculed my wife and made false claims about my father?" Voting as his conscience directs him means not throwing his own family under the bus. And he gets booed for this? What is wrong with our nation?

Likewise, certain supporters of Bernie Sanders are deriding their chosen candidate because he has told them that his own ambitions are now less important than the fate of the country. How can they be such idiots?

Donald Trump must not become president of the United States. We, the voters, cannot allow a fascist to take power. That's the emergency issue we are dealing with. Everything else is just glitter.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Tom spent the weekend fixing things--peeling trim, a broken barn door, a rotted-out panel beside the bulkhead. I spent the weekend mowing grass and harvesting garlic and sorting through books . . . always a terrible job because owning too many books is my only packrat symptom. I was ruthless (for me), so the A-P shelves are looking somewhat airier this morning, and the Goodwill pile in the basement is looking large. But Q-Z has yet to be tackled.

Last week I also gave away most of my canning jars, all of my chicken-rearing supplies, and a bunch of extra garden tools. I feel as if I am shedding a skin.

So far, though, no one has even looked at our house. The shedding may be pointless.

Today: dog groomer, dentist, grocery store, post office, bank. Then home, and mowing and picking beets and sweeping floors and editing an academic book and copying out The Duino Elegies and trying to find a new doorway into my own writing. I am not in the zone, to put it mildly; and I have not been there for a long time. Everything I do manage to crank out is so beastly to make. It would be a relief to enjoy myself again.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Last night, for a dinner party, I made a peach pie; and though this sounds like hubris, I think it really may have been the food of the gods. What a pie it was.

So here I linger, in the humid morning, drinking black coffee, letting the breeze sift across my shoulders and thinking about the second peach pie, uncut, that still sits in my refrigerator.

And I'm thinking, "Tom's home for another whole day!" And that I will walk out into the woods and hunt for chanterelles this morning, before the torrid sun gets busy.

Three dahlias in their tiny jars. Wind through an open window. A robin singing. Summer.