Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

The truth is, I feel a little bored today. The “Julie and Julia” book is rather boring. I suppose I’m just not there yet. She's funny but I'm not connecting. She’s lovable and goofy but I’m just not interested. I like Catherine Newman so much better- and Anne Lamott and Carolyn See. But this woman, Julie Powell just doesn’t grab me.

So I’m trying to think of what and who does grab me. I suppose who I love, really, are the poets who also write prose. It seems all the fiction writers and memoir writers that fascinate me the most are also poets. I wish I wrote more poetry. I think I just feel daunted. I did write it in college and I know how to do it but when I sit down to do it, I just feel out of steam. I feel all used up. All my vague ideas rollicking around in my head are all used. They’re not, of course but it seems like that. After I stopped writing poetry for a small creative writing class, a huge block moved into place.
So’s I have a plan. It’s been a back burner for awhile but I think I might pull it out. One of my most puzzling interesting authors is Frances Mayes. Not only is she a writer but also a poet and she did write a book on poetry. And I do have it. I need to pull it out and start reading it. It’s a good heavy solid book and I just need to spend time with it. I also want to spend time with Ted Kooser’s book on making poetry (which I also have), I just need to find it in my car. Ted is such an enjoyable writer that I tend to cruise over his mechanics of poetry just to read about his life stories. If you haven’t read his “Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps” you should because it’s a very precious little jewel. I need to re-read that too. It's funny, smart and everything is cut up into little fragments- just what I like. Complete thoughts and scenarios in about a thousand words or less.

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The Willows Converse Among Themselves

I look across the river and catch sight of the willows, lost in their own world. They have no regard for me. They are speaking to each other in whispers so I hear nothing clearly but I see their long golden-yellow chains wavering over the water. It reflects their light.

There are presences in this world that are not human but sometimes, a human being comes across one of these presences and this is when poetry happens—when we interact with the strange divinity that moves through the world.

I caught sight of the willows and so complete were they within themselves, so beautiful to behold, that my mind stopped dead in its tracks and my heart eased. In the presence of an Other, human commotion becomes impossibly silly and pointless. The past and future converge into the present and there is only now.

I exhale the stress I’ve held this morning as I watch them. The willows, their long hair hanging over their faces, disregard me totally and completely and talk in their slow tree way, something to do with the air, water, and earth. I cannot hear much but what I do hear makes me recall there were other beings on this earth other than myself, older than myself. They exist in this time, in many times, living, dying, always reappearing. The willows hang their hair over the water as they have done for centuries, listening to the currents and moving with the breezes and eddies of the wind.

With a gratefully diminished self, I thank the universe for the ancient poetry that is the willow tree and move forward, reborn, into the bright day.

 

茶の煙柳と共にそよぐ也

the tea smoke

and the willow

together trembling

Issa

(Trans. David G. Lanoue)

Beautiful Dirty Summer

The thick green groves of cup-plants (silphium perfoliatumare) stand eight feet tall and are in their late summer glory. I look up at their bright yellow ray flowers and shield my eyes, the bright flowers sway so high and run so close to the sun. When I squint, the flowers darken into forms without color like the outline of the sun beating through closed eyelids.

I take a step nearer and peer into the leaves. Tiny pools of still water collect where the thick cup leaves meet the stems. It has not rained in the last few weeks and I’m surprised there is any water here at all. For leaves that are not broken or rotted, thimblefuls of water weigh without movement, rimmed with the detritus of summer: a fly’s wing, a wad of spider web, bits of dead grass and portions of pollen.

These tiny pools are water for goldfinches, tiny birds that flash by like rays of light. It hasn’t rained for weeks and this is left, tiny pools of water full of dirty summer. I consider drinking it. With one quick gulp, I’d drink the essence of a passing summer, imbibe what August means, and taste the bitter part of the growing season. This is living but rotting part that underlines all our lives but that no one likes to see, much less taste.

I shift my weight from foot to foot. The sun beats heavily down. The yellow flowers tumble in overhead breezes and the goldfinches live nearby, finding water where they can as the dry weeks pass. My hands drop to my sides and I pass back through the grass, ready for the shade. Perhaps when it rains and all the cup plants are full, I’ll take my drink along with the many others.