Who Would Have Thought

The mop of curls on the head of our neighbor Lucas is as golden as those on Le Petit Prince. Lucas came through the woods the other day bearing cookies.

image1 (17)I would not have been able to give you a Baobab tree if I hadn’t watched Art Wolfe last night on Channel 10.

Turning the corner from Walker Rd. to Cedar Hills Blvd. yesterday, where I once was given a $370. ticket for going into the far lane instead of the near one as I turned, I saw in the rear-view mirror the red-blue-red flashing light of an arresting officer. He was after the car behind me, it turned out, who was doing just what I had done six years ago, but I learned how the body knows and remembers: I could feel the flush of fear and anger flood my neck, right through my face.

To respond to that preposterous fine, I went to the traffic court, pled guilty but asked to be allowed to work it off in Community Service. The Judge asked me to elaborate, and I explained that I wanted to volunteer on the switch-board at Hopewell House, an in-patient Hospice. He granted my request, made a gracious comment about the worthiness of Hospice care, waived the fine, and I went off to do what I had been doing for several years. However, he required such a number of hours to complete my punishment that, as a friend pointed out, he was valuing my work at about $7 an hour. I didn’t care. But my body remembered the indignity and the fright, and taught me yet another piece about memory.flag

Now, looking out across our porch at lunch on a Sunday, I see the old flag from Hansville waving its last unfurlings.

No way to detail how it is enwrapped in the book I’ve just almost finished reading: Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Only to say it’s all a piece, all a piece with the poem our neighbor sent me yesterday when he found me posting my “If the Creek Don’t Rise” in our Poetry Box:

For the Children
By Gary Snyder

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us.
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.
In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.
To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:
stay together
learn the flowers
go light.

If the Creek Don’t Rise

Perhaps we treasure
witch hazel blooming
and eranthis, the
dignified grace of hellebores,
because we’re grateful, astonished
that we’re here to see them
yet another spring.
Our breath goes in and out,
we don’t break when we fall,
our sphincters hold, if barely,
and we sleep and wake
like people who expect it to continue.

I make plans for summer trips.
We speak of reservations on the train to Albany,
thinking of the sound of wheels on rails,
of how we’ll be there, embraces
we will share in places
that are new to us, in others
where we know every turn of road,
the meaning of every shift of weather.

But that will only be
if we are still alive, only
if the world has not burnt up,
if angry men and women
have not torn apart the fabric
holding us together.

If the creek don’t rise.

JSB – February, 2016

Laughter at 7:20

image1 (14)“What does mnemonic mean?”

I hadn’t understood it when he first said it. The mumble came from partly under covers. And I was immersed in a short story of Jane Gardam’s. I’d just started to laugh as I realized “The Sidmouth Letters” is a delightful tease, a very complex story and very funny.

“Mnemonic is a noun. It’s a pattern you remember to help you remember something else.”

“Oh. Well, that’s not what I want.”

My laughter turned into one of those happy fits of laughing when you don’t stop for a while and in the end don’t really know what struck you so funny, and it doesn’t really matter.

Maybe the moon had contributed.

When I’d gone to turn up the heat at 6:50, just before dawn, there was the moon right where it had been yesterday at 5:30, up there over the trees through the high window over the front door from where I stood by the thermostat.

In the story, the narrator, Annie, had just had a most ridiculous conversation with her great Auntie about the packet of letters Jane Austen had written to “the shadowy lover,” letters guarded for three generations and never read, and now finally, suddenly, given to Annie, literally tossed into her lap.

Perhaps I feel delight at being able to think of all the people who can find the story and read it, and laugh, too. All the people I love who can be looking at that same moon.

How this moment, wondering what word it was that Tom “wanted,” will never happen again, and will go on forever.

(Hansville, WA)