Because I couldn't stop the dead/they ambled up to me.
Or so it's been. A long year. A long, long year. But some of it still scarlet shawls, collected animal bones carved cryptically to read a thing about vintage quilts made into tipis and what it means to teach, to be taught, to have words amass loss into something meaningful.
The other day I pulled up a poem to show a student a certain tone and the lines and within it the line about the people who loved the speaker being sad since the speaker died struck me anew as a mean thing and it reminded me of a coffee meeting a few weeks back with someone who didn't like any of his wives or women or me and how I left reeling from it and thinking that literature should bring about the best of us. So today saunters in, a little stooped as a Thursday can be and with it, an elegy by a student who wrote of the universe's overcoat and another student urging him to search that coat for spare change and change and then this title little sonnet about sugar and our sweetness galloping away with us, consumed by our consumption, done in by our need for the lovely and honeyed and I am saved enough by that. But then the mail and that cranberry crimson shawl made for me by one of my first university students ever. A girl wicked-sharp, a teacher among students even then, and now, all degreed-up, married, a grown-up but still armed with the whimsy and knitting needles both unmetaphored, restored to a world where a thing can be spun into something both necessary and playful and warming a needful day into play.
I could say more about a snapshot of Glen Campbell or a poem called a canzone shared with me by a favorite poet or about lite eggnog and spiced rum or smoke kittens or tadpoles so tiny when they burst into froglets that we call them the preemy and they burst out like a dark star against the turquoise gravel. Or a sister named of all things Antonia, who is indeed My Antonia and my best friend and my light star in a world of dark gravel. Or that I live in a house now with a someone who loves me despite myself, sometimes in spite of myself but makes a night like this pitch-black from the city's distance, a little warmer, a lot brighter.
In light of that, here's a poet whose work I await in book form:
by CHRIS PEXA
– for Rachel
tell us about evening and about the bright
star tell us about the huge dark wall
where it is pinned so if no one is looking
the sky is really burning and tell me it is my eyes
that douse it all to soot, black branches
with one root in carbon and budding eternity.
explain that once a month a family of owls covers
the tree, winks at us, refuses to explain their singing.
when snow is thinly falling we see you there,
the slowest star, and I hear you thinking
of a story, that mute wetness spread across the field is you
clearing your throat, all stories being born
from silence. what story: the snowflakes
cut from the sun are large as cars in the darkness
and grow small and doily when licked
by January stars. what story: barefoot,
running in the wake of the plow,
cold black clods and white sun blessing your steps,
no Jesus yet to dream you into majesty, earth
being enough, no steeple secrets, no divine moons
to pin back your hair, no soap for your tongue, no lye,
no alabaster mothers to sew in a new tongue
and holy toast, cracked as headstones, for you to chew.
are you ready to climb to the top of the stairs?
to tell me about the star nation, the unnamed,
what some grandfather of the clean, glowing
cafes and dive bars of the moon
call morning, a newborn's grouchy hunger?
the dew its mouth and tongue sing for?
think of me in the low thorns, hunched like an umbrella,
my small ribs breaking toward the clouds like love.