Monday, January 8, 2018

Where I Lived and What I Lived for -- Bennington

I found these snow football pictures Julia Pistell took during our first winter residency and posted a few on Instagram. My friend Ben replied with a quote from a shared favorite novel A Separate Peace: Everyone has a moment in history which belongs particularly to him. It is the moment when his emotions achieve their most powerful sway over him, and afterward when you say to this person "the world today" or "life" or "reality" he will assume that you mean this moment, even if it is fifty years past. The world, through his unleashed emotions, imprinted itself upon him, and he carries the stamp of that passing moment forever.

It's a good quote and Bennington is as close to Gene Forester's Devon as anything. That winter residency was beautiful and real. Snow football in the sunset splendor of the Green Mountains made us feel like Kennedys. It stamped me, yes, but it isn't only Bennington and that time. When someone says "life" or "reality" to me, it's that sense of community I assume they mean. I've been lucky in mine and was lucky to be a part of this one in the freezing winters of Vermont, playing with my poet and prose comrades without keeping score, then climbing into the common room through the window, hands cut by the razors of snow, jeans frozen stiff.

Dink's Song

This is my earworm, my sad anthem for happy days of friends and Detroit beauty. The harmonies are perfect, expected Mumford. The lead is Oscar Isaac who I know better as Poe Dameron, X-wing pilot from the new Star Wars. It's an old song collected in 1934 from a woman named Dink who sang it while washing her clothes in a river. It's a ballad of longing for a lover departed across the river to Arkansas, leaving the speaker pregnant with his baby. Whatever river of time or space or circumstance separates us, dear reader, fare thee well.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Rye Whiskey

I'm sitting at the counter of Great Lakes Roasters, warming up for the bitter cold of a January Detroit with a rye whiskey old fashioned. There's a traditional song Rye Whiskey that goes 

      If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck
      I'd dive to the bottom to get one sweet suck
      But the ocean ain't whiskey and I ain't a duck
      So we'll round up the cattle and then we'll get drunk
      Rye whiskey, rye whiskey, rye whiskey I cry 
      If a tree don't fall on me, I'll live till I die

The Landrum men have a debate over the best lyric among the hundred or more verses. My father loves the poetic leap of being a drunk duck in an ocean of whiskey and the pullback into reality and settling for action. I love the irrefutable logic of "if a tree don't fall on me, I'll live till I die." It makes me think of Horace's poem celebrating the day where a falling tree nearly killed him but didn't. 

Either way, the drink itself makes for slow sipping in a fast world. I raise a glass to you, reader, and wish you a future free from falling trees. Let's live till we die. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Year

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God.
Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
(Isaiah 43:2-3, 18-19)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Travelogue -- In Sardinia

People were lining the streets of a town in the interior of Sardinia.

"Quid es la festa?" I asked a woman in her twenties seated on the curb in my best Hispano-Latinate pidgin.

She blinked up at me. "La festa è l'assunzione di Maria."

So we ordered drinks at a sidewalk cafe and waited with everyone else. Soon, there was singing and women in dresses and men in old-style suits processed by carrying crosses. Then tractors and oxen festooned with garlands. I watched a little girl of four or five amble around in her traditional costume dress and hop up in the scoop of a slow-moving earth mover turned float.

Afterward, driving back to Cagliari, the road narrowed into open country. On an anonymous dirt crossroad, we saw a group of people in costume dress. They were waiting to process, maybe to the tiny village's steeple I could see a mile distant through the hills and dry chapparal. I pulled over and hopped out and snapped two pictures with my old iPhone 5S. Then we drove on.



Say mountains. Say winter. Say the other houses
recede into weather and the sharp edges of the forest

blur. Say thin atmosphere. Say altitude
which is the same thing as saying nearer to heaven,

a mile closer to the moon. Say whitening. Say silvering.
Say the sunset is cliché. Say the future falls slowly,

an endless layering, driven, plowed, blown into banks.
Say gut feeling. Say benison. Say we could go out searching

amid the pines and suburban houses for hours on end
and come home to find life waiting for us

on the living room couch. Say we are God’s sterling clasp,
senses crafted to hold the jeweled snow.

Denver means a breath away from breathlessness.
Say that love is not only possible but inevitable,

that it alights around us, freely given, equally shed.
Say the forecast shows things clearing 

by the week’s end. I might just believe you.

(originally appeared in Ambit)

Monday, December 25, 2017

After Machado

Last night, I slept and dreamed
that my heart was a beehive ––
inside golden bees worked busily,
sipping at the astringent nectar
of past bitterness, transforming it
into pale wax and sweet honey.

Where I Lived and What I Lived for -- Bennington

I found these snow football pictures Julia Pistell took during our first winter residency and ...