Or was the point always to continue without a sign? - Louise Gluck
Blog,  What I'm Reading

The poetry of new friends and not knowing

When you’re getting to know a new friend, all those interesting random things that are said, like their enjoying discussing literature, as well as Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Cool. You’re definitely interesting.

And what keeps coming to mind to say about poetry but there hasn’t yet been a time I’ve thought of it that was convenient to say it, is the haphazardness of my lack of knowledge. I go through poetry phases, get on poetry kicks. Earlier this year is was Mary Oliver. There were pieces in her A Thousand Mornings I liked a lot, and I’d like to make that sentence more poetic, or at least not one that would make one of my former English teachers roll her eyes… no, scowl. A lot is two words. It is also vague. Do no use it. Well, at least I know it’s two words… but “liked a lot” is pretty lame; I don’t always have the best words.

Before Mary Oliver, aside from some one-night-stands with forgettable words, it was Pablo Neruda, thanks to an Instagrammed quote:

I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

Yes, that got my attention. If you want to read the rest, hang on, it’s at the end of this post…

This weekend I’m spending some time with Louise Glück. I love interlibrary loan. I started in her collection The Wild Iris. Here is one of her Matins:

You want to know how I spend my time?
I walk the front lawn, pretending
to be weeding. You ought to know
I’m never weeding, on my knees, pulling
clumps of clover from the flower beds: in fact
I’m looking for courage, for some evidence
my life will change, though
it takes forever, checking
each clump for the symbolic
leaf, and soon the summer is ending, already
the leaves turning, always the sick trees
going first, the dying turning
brilliant yellow, while a few dark birds perform
their curfew of music. You want to see my hands?
As empty now as at the first note.
Or was the point always
to continue without a sign?


Or was the point always
to continue without a sign?

So often I’ve looked for, asked for signs. I’ve longed for assurance that things would be different, better. I fell apart, and apart, and apart, and apart again. When I was done falling apart, I held the pieces and waited for the miracle. I scraped bare earth for a sign, and bled. I wanted to be told what to do, which choices would bring me closer to peace. Peace with myself, at peace in my world. There was no reassurance or warning any direction I turned. And I found when I stepped out into things for little more reason than that they pleased me, the world didn’t shudder to a stop. Each day was followed by the next. I stopped turning myself inside out turning over choices. And I chose to make them without regret.

I continue. Without a sign. Trying to make the best choices for me, my mental health, my peace – that fit within the needs of my children.

I go to work at my job Covid-19 didn’t destroy. I take what never seems enough time to spend with enjoyable friends who don’t bring out the negative but feed something in me. I exercise. I don’t spend enough time at the lake, but I get there sometimes. I take my kids to church. I need to write more. And take more pictures. I read. Yes, some poetry. Twenty novels so far this year. As well as a few memoirs. Some short stories, and essay collections. I’ve started a number of books that weren’t worth my time to finish. Because that’s another choice I made, longer ago. Though, actually, at first it was made for me. After I became a parent, it was difficult to finish a book for pleasure. I started college online, so I did a lot of reading, but all with the focus of mastery, or, in English class, dissection and discussion. After I finished my BS, the first book I read just to read was Crime and Punishment. Because I also go through times I want to get more classics under my belt. But for quite some time, I rarely finished a book for me, because I just couldn’t stay awake at the most convenient time to read: in bed after the kids were asleep. I finally went back to keeping track of my reading this year. I hate to say it, but as I look back over the list, I already can’t remember how some of the books ended… but I know I finished them. The ones I chose not to have a black line through the title.

I’m currently reading, along with The Wild IrisPeople of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, and Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals. I have several more little collections of Louise Glück’s poetry and Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People waiting. Backman’s And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer is one of my more recent favorites… a short read I’ll admit made me cry, and when I say cry, I mean cry. His A Man Called Ove was also definitely worth my time.

Time. I guess that’s what much of this comes down to. How I choose to spend my time to be the healthiest, and feel the most fulfilled I can without damaging others, and with the various restrictions there are on life, in life. Determining what I’ll yield to when and for how long. What I’ll pursue. What I’ll hold onto, and what I’ll let go. The point is to continue. Continue without a sign.


Bonus poem

Everyday You Play
by Pablo Neruda

You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Curl round me as though you were frightened.
Even so, a strange shadow once ran through your eyes.

Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.

How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the gray light unwinds in turning fans.

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
Until I even believe that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

from Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

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