Archives for August 2014

L.L. Barkat’s “Love, Etc.” volume 11

The poem “6 a.m.” starts “You know” and I realize immediately that no, I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s like to wake up at 6 a.m., the bed beside me empty, the sun barely risen. If I’m still in bed at 6 a.m., I am sick. I’m my father’s daughter—an early bird. Usually up at 5 a.m. when all is heavy dark.

But my husband could write this poem. He wakes up “and the sheets seem / extra loud / against themselves.” Yep, Megan’s up and out again, as always.

All that to say, a poem might not work for you simply because it’s outside of your experience. But this one made me think about what it might feel like to be the one left:

from 6 a.m.

You cannot feel the air moving,

but the sound of the shade

keeps knocking

its hollow knuckle

at the old wooden sill

L.L. Barkat

L.L. Barkat’s “Love, Etc.” volume 10

from Planted

How many years now?

the tree still

not in bloom.

L.L. Barkat

 

Oh, I feel the pain in this one! Whether it’s a flowering dogwood that never flowered or just some bloomless bush. It should have worked. It was planted.

What to do then with a “ruined” plant. Prune it—all the way. Whack that sucker! Make room for those “red begonias.”

Also, I love that the poem ends with “empty sunlight.” I get oh, so weary of poems extolling the virtues of sun, as if sun is always a smiley face in the sky. Not in August in Texas.

L.L. Barkat’s “Love, Etc.” volume 9

Embodiment. That’s the title.

It’s two sentences. I think they would catch my eye even if the were written as prose:

“No one thinks of it this way, thinks about incarnation being what we do when we say this is the truth of what I am living day to day and it hurts like hell to be the ones to put it into body, but we cannot seem to help ourselves. The truth is being born under out fingertips.” — L.L. Barkat

But that’s not how it’s written. It has stanzas and line breaks that force you to slow down, to put the words into being.

I’d love to share why this poem means so much to me, but some things are too personal for the internet. Suffice it to say, Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

 

L.L. Barkat’s “Love, Etc.” volume 8

from Combing:

 

Sometimes

 

we take them home, thinking

we will find a place for them

on the window sill,

but the light isn’t quite right

and the garden has a little spot

where the pink begonias grow in Spring

that simply seems

 

wanting

 

Does it matter now?

 

L.L. Barkat

 

Next month, I am going to the beach. (Yes, I’m going in September—fewer crowds, less heat.) When I went as a child, I always brought home shells. And I never knew what to do with them. Somehow, they never looked right, separated from their home.

Now I make a habit of buying something practical when I’m on vacation, something I’ll use often and always remember where I bought it. Last year when we went to South Padre, I bought an orange pitcher for my tea. At the moment, it holds coconut green tea with lemongrass and ginger.

My family went to South Padre nearly every year when I was growing up. One year, I saved the shells I couldn’t find a sill or a garden for, and that October, bought a ceramic display dish at the Hallmark store owned by my now-boss’s parents. I put the shells in the curved hollows of the dish and gave it to my mom for her birthday. That was 25 years ago. My mom has been gone for four years. That dish and those shells are still displayed in her bathroom. I guess that space by her tub was “wanting.”

So, yes, it does matter now.

 

L.L. Barkat’s “Love, Etc.” volume 7

from You are white smoke against a white sky

This one is kind of mysterious. The “you” isn’t there. The “I” is alone. Whatever the reason for the distance or how far it is, an open window makes it seem less so.

“I open the glass. / To let me out, to let you in.”

I love those lines, but of course, I simply like open windows. I like to see what’s happening in the sky and in the trees, to notice the colors.

Also, I just love the notion of a white sky, something I’d never thought about until they talked about it on the “RadioLab” podcast about color, about how it took a long time for humans to agree that the sky is blue because lots of times it is white.

Right now from my back patio, if I look left, the sky is blue. If I look right, it’s white.

L.L. Barkat’s “Love, Etc.” volume 6

from But, no

he cannot remember the verb

for me,

L.L. Barkat

What if every person had a verb that described their character? What if what we do is who we are? Or, as it was so eloquently sung on Grammar Rock, “I put my thing in action! / Verb! That’s what’s happening.” 

You are excused for the next three minutes to watch the video. I dare you not to be happy while you listen to one video from the best educational tools of all time—Schoolhouse Rock.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

See?

When we put our heart in action, like the grammar superhero sings, we reveal our essential verb. L.L., you and Verb agree: “I don’t know my own power!”

L.L. Barkat’s “Love, Etc.” volume 5

from Petit à Petit L’Osieau Fait Son Nid

I have been making a such a nest,

little by little, time after time,

I have been dreaming near a garden

in threads of memories, ruby red.

 

Friends, this weekend I entered the stage of Nearly Empty Nest when we moved my daughter to school. She’ll be boarding her last three years of high school—something I never anticipated, but something that is the right decision.

This morning, my husband and I were talking about how she’s been gone before—at camps or at grandparents’ houses. This feels different. This is different. NowI get to see what state my nest is in. I have been making it, little by little, all these years.

Perhaps I need a “red thread” like L.L. found earlier in the poem, near the garden. Of course, I have no garden, but as I look over the backyard this morning, every blade of grass is a ruby memory.

I’ve read this poem before, but never aloud until today. It has more internal rhyme than I remembered. I like “mine” as a possessive and “mine” used also as the cave where treasures lay buried.

And of course, I like all the red, as I sit here with my phone in its red case, my Kindle in its red case, my laptop in its red case, my dogs drinking water out of a red bowl.

L.L. writes about “the gold turning red.” I can’t say I started at gold, but gold is bright and shiny, and I have deepened into red. It is a color I had to grow into, and I still might not be there if not for losing my mother, whose favorite color was red.

Following up on my last post about the separation of the heart and lungs in L.L.’s “Lunch at Grand Central” and the wall from “The Fantasticks,” separation is a theme in this poem, too: “it is time to say / what is yours and what is mine” and also “I have been claiming what is mine” and yet there is an invitation: “and inviting you to say / you want the nest, the gold turning red.” When I was pregnant and when my kids were babies, there was little separation. Now it is as if I am “the garden waiting, for what you have to say.”

L.L. Barkat’s “Love, Etc.” volume 4

from “Lunch at Grand Central”

For some reason, this poem makes me think of “The Fantasticks,” which I saw last night for the first time in decades. I had the original cast album when I was growing up. I still knew all the words. I knew which ones they’d changed.

She saw it happen,

she explained.

I saw it on stage last night, and as I sang along, it seemed to explain … everything. It shocks me that knowing this musical as well as I did from such a young age—in essence, having the Cliff Notes to life—I was still taken by surprise when life did what life does.

She did not deny it, just went on

speaking of the heart’s troubles,

never stopping to consider

the actual point of entry.

There are a lot of reasons “The Fantasticks” is the longest-running musical ever, not the least of which is the songs. But it’s also that the story on stage is the same story lived by every boy and girl and every parent. I never stopped to consider that every heart has trouble and that all our troubles are remarkably similar.

This morning, I’ve been thinking of the wisdom behind El Gallo’s final instruction: “Leave the wall.” Or as L.L. writes, The lungs are here. They’re separate from the heart, which, the poem reminds us, is a good thing when heart surgery is necessary. The heart goes here; the lungs go there. The wall stays.

L.L. Barkat’s “Love, Etc.” volume 3

I promised myself I wasn’t going to post whole poems anymore, but this one is so short. I can’t help myself. From now on I’ll try to select snippets so as to tempt your taste buds.

But for now …

Sometimes

when I’m alone,

I put the tip of the sheet

into my mouth. It’s this primal

thing, this pressing of the edge

into my very self.

L.L. Barkat

The things I do when I’m alone, all the “sometimes.”

What is this connection with words? What is it about reading symbols on a page that moves me? I’ve said, about a book, “I devoured it,” meaning I read it fast. Even so, it can go deep “into my very self.”

Sometimes things stick long after a story is done, certain details. I just finished Hugh Howey’s trilogy: “Wool,” “Shift,” and “Dust.” I’d read “Wool” a couple of years ago, but I couldn’t get the image of the silo out of my mind, the porters, the cleanings.

Reading poetry is more like — I imagine — eating at the The French Laundry restaurant, where you are served many small portions, one after another. Just a taste.

“Love, Etc.” volume 2

Winter Road Trip

The road is long as I travel south

and sun is low in the white sky.

Last night I woke to a great silence,

in a house that is anything but silent

by day. Old pines keep watch

over that dwelling, and the moon

keeps watch, and I wish

for this kind of watching,

but my bedroom in the town where I live

looks out over streetlights and the sounds

of cars and sometimes sirens. In my room,

the roads seem short, and I wonder

if tonight I will dream of the long road

home, and how the sun bathed the trees

in gold, and how the sumacs leaned with flowers

the color of some wine whose name

I can’t remember, near the trees whose names

I’ve never known, now strung with long red necklaces.

L.L. Barkat

Funny, I can’t imagine taking a winter road trip south. It would be so different to live in the north.

My house is about to get a lot more “silent / by day,” unlike the poet’s. Empty nest begins this month.

The poem starts “The road is long” but later says “the roads seem short” and finally “I will dream of the long road.” Time in a car is always relative. As a Texan, I have great patience for road trips. I won’t be getting away this summer, and I’ve been dreaming of “the long road.”

The other part that repeats is the watching. In the poem the pines keep watch. I can ask my pecan tree to keep watch over the backyard and the live oak to keep watch in the front. The moon keeps watch, which is why I watch it every morning when I walk the dogs. Me? “and I wish / for this kind of watching”—for things above me to watch over me.