Wednesday, December 26, 2012

the mess was delicious

A few years ago, when my girlfriends and I went on our annual beach trip, we ended up having dinner at the house of a friend of my Florida pal Stacy's. The friend was newly divorced man with a small toddler. At one point someone spilled a glass of red wine on the floor, and the adults began cleaning it up. The little boy, meanwhile, stood a couple of feet away, riveted by the dark splotch on the carpet, repeating as if mesmerized, "It's a mess. It's a mess. IT'S A MESS." Watching his rapt incantation, all of us shot a wide-eyed look at each other: Dang. A mess really upsets that kid. Bless his heart, and Lord help the person he marries. 

I really shouldn't make fun, though, because messes make me nervous, too. Recently, I brought in one of my recent dreams to talk over with my analyst. In the dream, I had assigned my first-year writing students to prepare homemade mushroom soup. Each student had to make his or her own version and turn it in. I would taste it, evaluate it, and give it a grade. On the due date, the students showed up, each with a pot containing his or her batch. Some of the soups had whole mushroom caps in them, and others had been completely pureed, but it was clear that each of them had gotten the broth base right, because they were all various shades of dark, rich brown. I walked down the line of pots, ladling a scoop of soup from each into my bowl. Then I realized that I was putting all the students' versions in the same bowl, and I felt foolish and a little panicked: there was no way I was ever going to be able to distinguish among the batches in order to assign a grade to each one.

Friday, December 7, 2012

six hundred dollars' worth

Poems I keep thinking about lately: Kay Ryan's "That Will to Divest" and Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art." That section in Robert Hass's "Regalia for a Black Hat Dancer" where he talks about his divorce from his first wife, how during the whole process he imagined the moment when he would finally, deliberately, and ceremonially declare it finished. He visits a Buddhist shrine in Korea and considers leaving his wedding ring there but then decides not to.
In the months we were apart, I had endless fantasies
about when I'd finally take it off and how. And then one day,
I was moving, lugging cardboard boxes, I looked down
and it wasn't there. I looked in the grass of the driveway strip.
Sowbugs, an earwig. So strange.
I was searching in the rosebed of a rented house
inch by inch, looking under the carseat where the paper clips
and Roosevelt dimes and unresolved scum-shapes of once
vegetal stuff accumulate in abject little villages
where matter hides while it transforms itself. Nothing there.
I never found it.

He ends with a statement of baffled resignation: "Apparently I was supposed to wait / until it disappeared." In her poem, Bishop is similarly breezy, but of course she's whistling through the graveyard as she names things she's lost, from little to big: "And look! my last, or / next-to-last, of three loved houses went."

Well, Elizabeth, by summer, I too will have lost three loved houses.