Thursday, March 26, 2020

Well, Tom has received his work instructions. For now, the four-man crew will continue to frame at the renovation site, but all traveling subcontractors (plumbers, electricians, etc.) will be barred. According to T, the four are already dispersed around the house; they're not working on top of one another. The plan is that once they get to a point that requires subcontractors, they'll close down the job. Tom's not sure when that will be: a week, maybe more.

I'm trying not to focus on how nervous this makes me, both working and not working.

Still, yesterday was a banner day because I went for a walk with my neighbor. Yes, you read that correctly. We walked together for a couple of miles and carried on a pleasant conversation, all while easily staying at least six feet apart,  It can be done!

My older son tells me that Chicago smells like weed, which I guess is not surprising. People gotta pass the time.

Today will be sunny and 50 degrees. I'll hang laundry on the line and maybe sow some lettuce seeds. I'll finish editing a chapter. I'll go for a bike ride. I'll bake bread. Yesterday I picked up my meat order and broke most of it down into freezer packages. Thus, tonight at Cafe Quarantine: roast chicken, farro, a spinach salad.

Here's a poem that's not at all seasonal. But when I reread it this morning, I felt as if it might be enacting a version of our current moment: sitting alone, walking alone, thinking alone; and meanwhile the sounds of others, beating on the door. Both metaphor and not metaphor. Creation and disappointment. The inventions of loneliness. The world, inside.

A Listener Sends Six Letters to God, in Autumn

Dawn Potter

Dear Sir, he wrote at dawn,

I am requesting your kind attention
to a perplexity, which is this:
that I believe I may be hearing
what otherwise cannot be heard,
and I am finding it necessary to become
a vessel for pouring this sound into the atmosphere,
if only I may have your assistance in the matter.
Dear Sir,
I pray you, accept this request
with all seriousness and haste.
Yours most truly,

and, with great care, he signed 

A Friend.


Dear Sir, he wrote at dawn,

Today I trudged down the muddy lanes
that snake alongside the sluggish canal
or suddenly veer away, to writhe
among the narrow houses and shops
elbowing one another against the dingy

He paused. On his pen, a bubble of ink trembled.

You see I am avoiding
what I need to say.
Despite undue haste, I remain

The bubble fell, and blotted.

Your Servant.


Dear Sir, he wrote at dawn,

For three days now I have been writing letters
to you. I trust you know that they are always
the same letters, though my words are different.
I am practicing my scales, and my hands are dirty,
and the piano keys stick in the humid air.
Nonetheless, I am

Here a fingerprint appeared.


Dear Sir, he wrote at dawn,

Last evening, I walked, again,
along the canal and I felt
the crackle of my letter to you
as it lay inside my hat, I felt
the snag of the letter’s fold against
my hair, which, I admit,
is neither clean nor combed.
It was necessary to mail the missive.
The question was:
where were you most likely to receive it?
I chose to drop the paper into a farrier’s mossy well,
and perhaps you now hold it
in your dry, your supple hand.
Reveal to me a sign.
My landlady is importunate.
I am your humble

Here a small hole appeared.


Dear Sir, he wrote at dawn,

In truth I am becoming weary of this chore.
I distrust myself.
Last night, while I was at the piano,
my landlady pounded the butt end of a rusty musket
against my chamber door.
To all appearances, she hates my sonata.
Perhaps you, with your finer ear,
will despise it also. I cannot pinpoint,
in these waning days, what, if anything,
I trust.
Yours, in difficulty,

and now the handwriting became a broad scrawl

One Who Attempts Clarity.


Dear Sir, he wrote at dawn,

Persistence is a reckless master.
This will not be my final missive, it will not.
Maintain your vigilance. Hunt for notes
tied to the highest twigs of trees.
I have torn the sonata into shreds
and floated them in the canal. They
are not the letter I meant to write.
I believe you understand.
A breeze blows across the piano strings
and the machine strums its private tunes.
They are not mine. Perhaps they are yours.

I do not hear my own in any gale.

[first published in Vox Populi]


nancy said...

I love this.

Christopher Woodman said...

Me too. C.

nancy said...

Phil Scott just closed the Vt schools for the rest of the school year. It's going to be a tough teaching day tomorrow . . .

Dawn Potter said...

Thank you both for your kind words. Nancy, I heard the news about Vermont schools. Your students will be suffering; I'm so glad you're there to cry with them.