About time

It is the last day of the calendar year, and tomorrow evening a full moon will shine over our snow-dressed meadow. End-of-year events have left me thoughtful about time, memory, fear, love, and other such. Which brought to mind this poem I wrote quite a few years back. It’s part of The Red Queen Hypothesis manuscript.

Let 2018 be a time to press against the dam and swell into your next adventure.

~

 

Counsel

Wait for that wisest of all counselors, Time. —Pericles, Plutarch’s Lives

Always, you have hated the wait,
fidgeting at the desk, the queue, your bed.
You suffer the malaise of the young
whose imaginations collide
with the world’s dull and repetitive ways,

for whom responsibility is a petty bureaucrat
in a cheap gray suit
watching the clock you punch, counting
irretrievable minutes you spend
doing work you cannot love.

Do not despair.
After you’ve done some time
in the slow slog of nickel and dime
your passions, silvery as fishes,
will gather in schools that swell and press
against the dam—

that damn ordinariness
dulling your heart—
and spill themselves brilliant into
the crooked creek of your next adventure,
each carrying in its small body
the germ of an idea, yours
to pursue.

~

waterfall

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Autumn, time transfixed

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When we were initially landscaping our property, I chose to plant a particular species of zelkova known for its lovely fall foliage color. I cannot recall the variety now, although I am sure I recorded it in my garden journal 16 years ago. The leaf color is challenging to capture in a photograph. If only I were a painter, then I might manage. Of course, the color varies depending upon time of day, cloudiness, and atmospheric changes.

It is a lovely tree that announces the equinox quite articulately.

~

Equinox, autumnal: a slowing of crickets, the brief visits of migratory birds, quieter dawns, fewer bats at dusk, longer shadows. Time is far from transfixed.

~

I visited the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, on a warm October day to see the René Magritte exhibit. Magritte’s work is so easy to parody, so graphically amusing, that my brother–who was not all that familiar with the artist–at first said, “This reminds me of mediocre high school art.” After viewing the entire gallery, however, he had changed his mind about Magritte.

Magritte did a great deal of commercial art and, like Warhol years later, felt comfortable with the kind of graphic representation to which wide audiences respond. And then he played with that audience’s expectations, sometimes more effectively than others. One painting which certainly upends expectations and which I was glad to see again is La Durée poignardée, on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago; it was a favorite of my late friend David Dunn.

La Durée poignardée (1938)

time-transfixed-1938(1).jpg!BlogThis image of the painting appears at http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/rene-magritte#supersized-featured-211652

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Here’s some playfulness concerning the title. The French word poignarder means to stab, and the implication is to stab with something pointed, ie, a dagger, since the verb is transitive. It interests me that the accepted English translation for this painting is “Time Transfixed.” The meaning I associate with transfixed in terms of, say, holding in one place (pointedly?) is that of pinning insects to a board as in lepidoptery displays. In this painting, the “stabbing” seems to be reversed: the pointy end emerges rather menacingly from the static, domesticated mantelpiece. If this image depicts the verso side of the display, it could be time itself that has been killed, spread open, and pinned, invisible from this aspect. Or perhaps the translation should be “Time Stabbed through Its Continual Duration,” stabbed with a poniard in the shape of something almost as ongoing, the contemporary barreling locomotive engine.

As it is a genuine surrealist painting, no particular meaning can be assumed. The images are random; make of them what you will. Magritte came up with wonderful, mysterious titles for his work–his paintings and their titles have inspired quite a few poets over the years. David Dunn was among them.

No wonder, really; this artist was quoted as saying, “The function of painting is to make poetry visible.”

~

Meanwhile, since I am not a painter, I will let the zelkova tree make poetry visible to me for a few days…and then get back to writing some myself.

Short books and re-reading

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clockWhen life gets busy and over-scheduled, even an inveterate reader may find she has to give up some of her precious book time to life’s other adventures and responsibilities. Philosophy and meditation require enough time for reflective, slow thinking; a hectic week precludes such activities. Creative thinking gets funneled into problem solving of a more mundane and practical variety. Creative writing? It may have to move, temporarily one hopes, to a back burner.

Last week was one of those over-scheduled periods when I take advantage of brief, unscheduled minutes to read short books. The beauty of reading short books is that the best short books reveal depths upon re-reading–one of the beauties of poetry as well. And if those short books happen to be books of poetry? “More’s the better,” as my great-aunt used to say.

During my crazy week, I managed to read three short collections of contemporary poetry, all by poets with whom I am personally (if marginally) acquainted. All three books are wonderful: layered, varied, well-crafted, interesting, moving, refreshing, surprising reflections on and of modern life with enough empathy and reach toward the “universal” to keep the poems valuable beyond today’s context. All three books are going on my re-read list so I can study and savor them again later, yet each collection is vivid and entertaining enough to read when crunched for time.

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Will Greenway’s 1999 collection Simmer Dim was published by University of Akron Press and offers the reader a travelogue to many places in the world without as well as the more interior worlds of memory, relationships, and reflection. Greenway writes in both free verse and in rhyme, which he employs so well it seems natural even in the informal diction his work often takes.

April Lindner’s 2012 collection This Bed Our Bodies Shaped was published by Able Muse this summer. The poems offer the sense of a personal speaker, suggesting intimacy that is revealed subtly through well-crafted lines and images of flowers, scene-settings, and  allusions from the classic to the modern (rock n roll). Lindner presents the woman’s perspective as individual, surprising, and non-stereotypical; when she writes about jobs, a lover, motherhood, or menopause, her observations are often quirky but wonderfully observed.

Elaine Terranova’s 2012 collection Dames Rocket was published by Penstroke Press. I love Elaine’s work, steeped as it is in the natural world, plausible and tactile, yet positively ascendant in tone. Her memoir-type poems evoke the kind of childhood that is fast becoming historical, and her awareness of that fact–the fact of aging–gives these pieces poignancy and occasional irony.

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All three books are also available on Amazon.com. Or ask your librarian to locate a copy for you.