I am in the country alone. This is a joyful.
It is not, why did so and so and so and so not come with, but rather, oh she has time alone. Alone time to eat the same salad for all meals, to talk on the phone with a gabby girl friend for longer than if my mate or houseguests hovered. To rise, like this morning at gray dawn and hop out with the cats in the yard by 5:15. Then to welcome a rainstorm, which sent me back to bed an hour later.
No music plays, no tennis roars from France and beyond, no bellow beckons for bacon or a ride. It is just me and the desires of one. I forget what a luxury that is. I rolled back to sleep in the thunder storm and was awakened by my daughter’s not so early phone call, but early for a 25 year old worker on a day off. She was cheery, chipper and had something she wanted to say, to read.
It was a poem long and complicated called Earthquake by Aime Cesaire one of the founders, she informed me, of the negritude movement. It was glorious to hear her voice, slow finding the words, but fulsome and morning throated. It was she, Willi, who had the initial idea of learning poems by heart. It was because Willi had wanted to have things in her head to recite as she took the long trek up the hill at 145 Street to the subway. She thought perhaps it could be an unplugging from technology and now she learned a long, mournful beautiful poem and her voice came through the wires into my sleepy ear.
Earthquake By Aime Cesaire
such great stretches of dreamscape
such lines of all too familiar lines
caved in so the filthy wake resounds with the notion
of the pair of us? What of the pair of us?
Pretty much the tale of the family surviving disaster:
“In the ancient serpent stink of our blood we got clear
of the valley; the village loosed stone lions roaring at our heels.”
Sleep, troubled sleep, the troubled waking of the heart
yours on top of mine chipped dishes stacked in the pitching sink
What then of words? Grinding them together to summon up the void
as night insects grind their crazed wing cases?
Caught caught caught unequivocally caught
caught caught caught
head over heels into the abyss
for no good reason
except for the sudden faint steadfastness
of our own true names, our own amazing names
that had hitherto been consigned to a realm of forgetfulness
itself quite tumbledown.
(Translated, from the French, by Paul Muldoon.)
Hearing her poem, her voice, nudged at my edges, entreating me to come here and put down, declare, if you will my June poem. It is Wild Geese by Mary Oliver and it was sent to me by a former Sarah Lawrence student, who had lived with us, lived in my daughter’s room and helped me through so much when I split from the father of my kids. A terrible earthquake like time for me, for all of us. I am contemplating letting the learning of this poem be a meditation on letting go of some of the things with which I still flagellate myself. The constant repenting and hand wringing about the wrongs done, the missteps taken, the paths gone down rocky and misguided. Let me love my soft animal self this month. Let me love me, rocks, warts, wrongs and all.
Let us all love the lovely animals we are.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.