Thursday, April 28, 2011

Salt and Pepper

April 2011


Let your speeches be peppered, my salt-of-Earth man
Let your Temperance be tempered by spots of Too Much
For the length of our days will stretch out like a road
And the scenes of some scenic parts must come from us

We must dare to delight, and to giggle like kids
We must sometimes say "damn" in a wry sort of way
And the hiccups of reason, mistakes of mere months
We will use years ahead to convert into play

They aren't joking, my dear, when they say "oh, tomorrow
we'll laugh about all that has happened today"
But if all they can sprinkle is white--only salt--
If they aren't using pepper--who cares what they say?


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Sister, you never told me you had become wise;

You never told me.

But indeed--the wealth of knowledge hidden in your little chest could never be communicated.
The way by which a girl becomes a woman is too mysterious--how could you speak it to me except with your eyes and the shape or content of your hands?

How did you learn to pat a person's arm when they speak embarrassment to you; how did you learn to create whatever you wanted with a needle, brush, pen? And that, that twist of your head to the side, bright like a promise, is such a vast piece of wonder in itself-- but you have learned it without a lesson.

When did you totally unlock the secret that the ancients have been unable to discover--the secret of loving the humans? This is not a girl's business, and yet, you are not a girl.

So let your curls conspire to draw every person who might learn from you, now that you are a woman; any art that the Designer might use to spread Himself around is worth the means... and in your case, the means are many. I don't mind that you are a nymph, that you are a dryad, that you are a bird who has become dangerous by means of knowledge. You have somehow come to embody beauty without fully knowing it yourself, and it came quietly from behind; we are all of us ambushed by what your time with the Lord has made you.

It was Him, wasn't it? How else could you have grown up with so little blight to your person? Few potted plants are so straight and true... you can see the others, can't you? Other girl-plants grow nearby, with loud, harsh voices, with constant mournings, with crushing insecurities leading to demonaic manipulations, and eyes that skirt around yours, with miniature clothing, with nothing to say and no energy to say it. I was a plant so blighted, and there is no way of blaming the sun or the seasoning in the soil or the hands that put me in there, or even the desert that they left me in...

All I can say truly is that I was not what I ought to have been, and it is a joy like searing rain to see that you are.

Ma, Pa

I saw it yesterday, in the cemetery.
Two stones with only one marking apiece:

"Ma," said one. "Pa," the other.

And I am different today. Do you understand? It was their best (their only) name, it was who they were and what they accomplished, and everything else had been swallowed up but two letters. They were summarized: Ma. Pa. I felt that moment that all my ambitions for a succulent public identity have only been a mask--swept away by the sight of two dead stones.

Because some hopes are too precious, too much, too dear, too great to be seen; they tremble; my heart trembles around them, trembles that they might be lost, throbs in agitation when they are even suspected.

It is the glory of the home that I long for, the glamour of an apron, the fame of my children's eyes, the sheen of a clean floor, the adventure of wet toddler curls, the divinity of careful daily instruction, the resplendence of clasped hands and synchronized steps, the Masters of Community conferred by a different institution and carrying no letters with it.

But if I must have letters, I prefer Mrs to PhD; if I must be take up a diploma, I would prefer the hearth's diplomacy ("Share, son"); really-- I want Ma more than M.A.

How could the wind in my ambitious sails be shown up as hot air--before there is some whispered promise of the thing they've covered for all along?

Is it weakness? is it a giving up?

And will you honor it, Oh God, this one thing that I want enough to hide and bargain for? Is it dangerous, this quaking kind of desire? (Anything is dangerous that is so MUCH.) it going to be enough for me--after a lifetime of cultivating cover-dream--will it ever be enough to shackle myself willingly to a kitchen, bedroom, rocking chair? Will my created cover-dreams flare and declare the smallness of my life?

Oh, of course they will. That's why love is a decision; that's why the Great Adventure will ever be my Significance. University or nursery, stage or pew, there must be only one theme for this life. Bring ivy-league bricks or babies, mics or men, songs or stoves, greek letters or love...

There is but one Significance to me. He.

Fifteen Dollar Sandwiches

It wasn't the money I wanted--

It was a fifteen-dollar sandwich, and a turned down collar and bedding with blue linen and some passing girl's shoes (as if I would ever wear heels like that!). It was Barcelona--it was Anywhere--and laughter echoing off a foreign pool (I didn't need to own the pool, just to know the ones who did, see). Not the money, no.

It wasn't he adoration I wanted, either--it was the song. I wanted the music; I did. I wanted to tell the truth to the masses (but applause is music, too, yes? It's just that I'm a natural with rhythm, see; it's in the blood). The instrument, I loved the instrument; I loved having chords in my own throat.

It wasn't readership, but the turn of (my own) punctuation that I needed to work out and work up and work on. I only wanted to be useful, to say it as it hadn't been said (where would the world be without writers?). I was willing to listen, too (with my mouth open, yes, but only to save time)(it's called dialogue). And I wasn't in love with the sound of my own typing fingers--(well, my laptop's new and very quiet).

The world needs writers; it needs beauty too. Is it vanity to love beauty and seek to embody it on occasion? (every occasion? please) Realism demands that I recognize what women are for--shall I cast off my role, my femina? It was the curve of my own leg I wanted (lust? please). The work was necessary, the failure was only for overcoming. Shall I not do what must be done for the sake of a waist, a face? I am only a woman; I don't put on airs. I know what we are for.

Now the dresses, it's true; I wanted those. The body for the dress, the dress for the body, the lipstick for Ava Gardner, (the world needs its Ava Gardners). For other women. Perhaps for men, too; yes, a little bit for men. (I suppose could blithely maintain that it was only for me, except I never shaved in the winter or dressed on Saturdays; sort of makes colander of my theory)... no! It wasn't vanity; I only wanted my Me to be worthy, contribute to he cause of Beauty.

I didn't want to be petted (to be protected from seeing myself? please); I wanted to be loved. I wanted him, let it be known. Is it selfishness, to love someone thoroughly? Is it selfish, to take what he offers and give what he wants? I was losing self, not worshiping it; did I ever say anything but that I loved him? I said it; you could have heard me if you'd been there and we hadn't been always hiding from the world, I said it all the time. "You make me feel like I have come home," I said. I meant I love you. "I can't imagine a future without you in it," he said. He meant I love you, too.

This is love.

I would have stayed, too. If my face had not begun to age, if he had been better with punctuation. And if there had been fifteen dollar sandwiches.

That's Ruth's Affair

A lady singing to her lover
Near a public park's last tree
"Lost my self and gained another,
so we --soulless both-- will be

Hanging here by ribbons, posies
poisoned here by sighs and sweets
We shall dance as if we're joyful
We'll hold hands on all these streets

You will kiss me like you trust me
I will hide my husband's ring
Go ahead and shut your eyes
So you can hear--not see--me sing

Was it idleness that brought us?
Was it some slow mind's disease?
It was born in my imaginings
In the thoughts designed to please

I didn't dream these rabbit trails
Would bring me to the flesh--the man
but body followed mind--as ever--
fancy walked before it ran

So let us linger here a while
I cannot bear to be alone
I cannot bear my baby's eyes
I cannot bear to go back home

I will not bear tomorrow either
when my husband calls me: ('Ruth!')
And your wide mouth is not around
to shield my vision from the truth"