Giggles, Girls, Growing

After a week of just too much, I sat knitting in the back row at the Galaxy Bookshop last night, surrounded by some adults I knew, and some I didn’t, listening to the four poets read in a round robin. The poetry and the poets all flowed into each other – stanzas about Garage Sale DayZ and an expectant father slid into a particularly exquisite love poem by Sean Prentiss.

Afterward, I spoke with his wife and admired how their baby girl smiles with her whole tiny, joyful body. In the warm June evening, scented with the town’s profuse lilacs, I lay on the grass under a sugar maple at the elementary school, waiting for my sixth grader at her first dance.

June’s blooming beauty – Siberian iris, deep purple lupine – and the children are happy. Beneath my palms, I could feel the earth herself, free from winter’s grip, breathing.

Do all things come to an end?
No, they go on forever….
The red clay bank, the spread hawk,
the bodies riding this train,
the stalled truck, pale sunlight, the talk;
the talk goes on forever;
the wide dry field of geese…
All things come to an end.
No, they go on forever.

– Ruth Stone, from “Train Ride”

Handmade Dresses

In the process of moving from one house to another, my daughters and I are turning every closet inside out. I urge the girls to pass along what they don’t want: books, outgrown clothing, costume jewelry…. and then I pack away the tiny baby dresses my mother sewed, sealing them up in a cardboard box and writing keep.

We’re three females going about our lives, moving from one house to another, and I keep reminding myself lucky, lucky, as I listen to VPR, the airwaves filled with so many people and so much upheaval, the tenor of the country and of the world uncertain, fraught.

Lucky, we are, moving not far, to a house surrounded by blooming perennials.

Here’s a fragment from a poem I found in a box, given to me by a friend, when my little girl wore those dresses.

…Even as his hands broke
the earth he worked, his heart
was fallow, asleep…
I turned and told him,
Yes. Plant. Plant everything
as if you had eternity
for you will die tomorrow.

– Arra Lynn Ross, “He Comes and Asks to Plant”


Montpelier, Vermont

Living the Dream

My friend’s mother has a phrase we repeated when we dwelled in the Realm of Raising Toddlers: after happiness comes tears.

After playing with sand, a spat over ownership of a small red shovel – as if the earth’s continued rotation depended on who held that plastic scoop.

Yesterday morning, I passed my friend’s once-upon-a-toddler driving his Toyota with two bicycles strapped on the roof, while my once-upon-a-toddler drove the opposite way in her Toyota, heading to her final days of high school.

We are long past the short, declarative sentences of small children, deeply into the lyricalness of years upon years unfolding. Punctuation is an illusion – toss it out and let the days and nights unspool….. happiness… tears… a stuffed toy rabbit worn down through affection… mason jars of crimson and gold tomatoes with fat emerald handfuls of basil… children lying on sparse grass beneath a maple tree, staring up at breeze-trembling leaves, wondering….

We’ll never mow the grass, hardly ever
rake the leaves. Adopt a goat for the lawnmowing
and squirt her milk into strong tea….
moonlight clothes snap
out on the line, extended
under stars.

– Megan Buchanan, from “Dreamlife” in Clothesline Religion


What Is

When I was in graduate school and teaching an intro creative writing course, I was walking down the library steps one afternoon and suddenly realized I knew almost nothing about writing. Why nouns and verbs, for instances? Why anything for that matter?

I stood there in the rain pondering the difficulty of creative work. I also guessed it would always be hard for me.

That, at least, decades later I now see, was one thing I was right about in my life. Since then, maybe I’ve gleaned one or two things: sometimes less is stronger, and sometimes you need to push and push, going for broke.

Here’s a poem from David Budbill’s lovely posthumous collection.

Say what you see.
Get it down right.

Accuracy is plenty.

What’s here
is good enough.