Lauren Groff’s book Fates and Furies continues to haunt me. The story of a long marriage and its unraveling. I like to think about what makes a long marriage stay together. It’s creating a long story with another person that becomes one big story. Well, our story this weekend is going to involve rest, movies, and writing. I’m all ready for it.
We walked the dogs in the soft cool twilight. Zooey always needs to be in front of the other dogs. She looks back at them with this look that says I’m in front, do you see me?
She nearly pulled my arm out of its socket when she was chasing a cat. She wanted to kill the cat, but that calico sneaked up a tree in the dark.
We didn’t walk far; I’m still shaky on my feet but getting better every day. It’s an odd feeling after illness like you’re floating.
I am writing this weekend and getting ready for a great Thanksgiving. I feel life like a swarm of bees, like honey, and I do like honey.
The best parts of life are sweet like honey. You are loved. Don’t focus any energy on the people who don’t love you. Focus on the big love in the universe and walk around in it like a child walking in a park under a sky full of clouds that could be any kind of animal, any kind of creature; the sky is magic, you are magic.
I just finished All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and I liked it. There is a diamond, the Sea of Flames which holds the book together, but the story of two young people whose lives will intersect throughout Germany and France is told against the background of the rise and fall of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The Von Rumpel character is the bad guy who wants to find the diamond, but we aren’t sure why. This is a contract novel, as in a novel in which there is a contract between the reader and the writer that the writer will give you a really good story. That contract with the reader is fulfilled. You want to keep reading, you literally can’t wait to finish the story, and since the book is 500 plus pages, you’ve got a lot of story to come back to. Of the two main characters, the blind girl totally had my heart, I love her and her father and her uncle, the scene where she’s eating the peaches holds my heart. I love her eating the peaches, carrying the bread, listening to music. I love the lilt of her walking the streets with her cane. That’s the sign of a good writer, you know the character as if you have lived with them, as if they have whispered to you in your sleep. Now I am reading Amy Bloom and getting well.
It happens a lot more slowly than the movies. The beaches are the dirtier in the movies. Women are not as beautiful in real life as they are in the movies unless you are in New York.
The skies are big in the movies, and the fields purple and golden and beautiful.
The lighting is perfect in the movies, but in real life the lighting is often all wrong and you look older than you want to look if you care about such things.
The other thing I like about life in the movies is there’s always the right music playing. I’ve tried to do that myself. I played “Riding the Metro” the first time I rode on the Metro. And I played the Grand Canyon Suite the first time I drove up to the Grand Canyon in the cool morning mist and I ate turkey sandwiches sitting with my feet over the edge.
Real life is wetter and yummier, it’s smellier and dirtier, the screams are real, the crying is undeniable.
Unlike the movies, it all really happened to you, and it’s happening right now. Look around you, in so many ways the world is a beautiful place, in so many ways, it’s a mixed up place. Mostly, I keep thinking about all the love, all the forgiveness and the way the moon looks when it’s full of light and pregnant over the water.
When you are home sick, you enter a strange drifting place. You are between sleep and waking, you are nearly in a dream, but the dream keeps stopping and starting. It threads along for a bit and then it gets scissored and falls down in little fragments on the floor. You don’t want to take a rocket ship to the moon, you just want to sleep and wake up in a room full of moonlight.
We have been walking a long time today. A long time in this life. And sometimes between walking, you get to the soft lilting bits where you get to breathe and think. I’m reading Fates and Furies still. And thinking of Paris. As a young woman, I walked through the streets of Paris, as students do, finding a bakery, a cheese shop, a wine shop and then voila, we had dinner. We went to the Tuileries and ate bread and cheese, drank the wine and afterward went to a café for espresso and then walked by the Seine and later found a jazz club. I was mostly with Lebanese boys that summer in France; they had wads of cash and loved American girls. We taught them to dance, and they could have taken us to fancy restaurants but we didn’t want to go because we had no fancy clothes. I remember dancing with a boy from Beirut to “Born in the USA,” and thinking about how much I missed Mexican food. Paris has a sweet thick fog in the mornings.
When you drink coffee in the morning, you aren’t lonely any more. Even if you slept with someone and weren’t very lonely to begin with. There is something about waking into your new day and remembering things. You splash your face and there it all is. Like it’s today and you think about what day it is and what you have to do. And the story you were reading the night before piles in on you. I am always reading at night.
Just finished Percival Everett’s Half Inch of Water which is fantastic, and now Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, but also The M Train by Patti Smith and Laura Groff’s Fates and Furies which I am crazy about. It’s the quintessential up market fiction.
In the lobby, a small boy was in time out, but he began talking to his mother about how he will work many jobs to support her as he grows up. He promised to be a police officer and work other jobs as well. I gave him the look grownups give when they want to ask something and he held up five fingers.
Today is Molly’s birthday and this weekend we are celebrating with parties and music. We are moving very quickly through space and we have to slow down to write or do our art work. That isn’t easy.
This coffee is good.
The five year old wants a bagel, but he won’t behave so he isn’t getting one.
We want and we want.
Sit down I say to myself. You want to write? Just write. The day is coming toward you. There’s the beach and writing and I may swim. In California, the beach is full of promise.
The Benefit was a huge success. Amy Bloom was wonderful; I want to know her for the rest of my life. Brian Turner’s poetry has such vigor, it makes you want to write big and Major Jackson’s work is achingly beautiful. He and his wife are so kind. We hung out at the cocktail party and last night as well. He invited me to come and visit next time I’m in Florida. Next time I see Major and his wife, I plan to have a martini. I wasn’t up to it last night, I was so glad to get through the Benefit which was even more successful than last year. I just needed some rest, water and antibiotics.
I’ve come around to the bright side of the moon. Major Jackson’s generosity and kindness did my heart good. It is good to remember that I’m loved and that something I’ve done in the world has been worthwhile. Red Hen is thriving, the Benefit was a great success. I feel the ship sailing ahead, and the wind filling our sails.
The moon is watching us sail through the upper skies. It gets dark sometimes, but then the moon rises.
Thank you Major Jackson, Amy Bloom and Brian Turner, and thank you to everyone who came to our Benefit.
We have no ritual.
In the garden, I plant snakes.
We drink ice water.
My mother stares at me across the table.
Thirty-three years apart. Strangers.
We gesture, speak alike; we speak in tongues.
When Minerva found Medusa had been raped in her temple by Neptune,
she cursed Medusa, tearing away her beauty, hair to snakes.
Mother orders sushi, then sends it to be cooked.
I knew her single.
Married thirty years, still leaf thin.
Dandelion seeds float.
We pass story fragments.
A woman without a story is no woman at all.
Matriarchy became patriarchy. A terrible woman, feared but powerless.
What does the word “forgive” mean?
That it’s all right?
That it didn’t happen?
That none of it ever happened?
You leave and you are other.
Outside you are other.
Without God, you are other.
Outside the great chain of being.
What happens when you reenter the room?
2 poems by Major Jackson
Freddie Hubbard—s playing the cassette deck
Forty miles outside Hays and I’ve looked at
This Kansas sunset for three hours now,
Almost bristling as big rigs bounce and grumble
Along I-70. At this speed cornfields come
In splotches, murky yellows and greens abutting
The road’s shoulder, the flat wealth of the nation whirring by.
It’s a kind of ornamentation I’ve gotten used to—
As in a dream. Espaliered against the sky’s blazing—
Cloud-luffs cascade lace-like darkening whole fields.
30,000 feet above someone is buttering a muffin.
Someone stares at a Skyphone, and momentarily—
A baby—s cry in pressurized air. Through double-paned squares
Someone squints: fields cross-hatched by asphalt-strips.
It is said Cézanne looked at a landscape so long he felt
As if his eyes were bleeding. No matter that. I’m heading west.
It’s all so redolent, this wailing music, by my side
you fingering fields of light, sunflowers over earth,
miles traveled, a patchwork of goodbyes.
ix. To Afaa Michael S. Weaver
Bless your gnarled hands, Sir, and their paternal blues.
Tonight Kala grazes a palm over a battered face,
feeling his new-born features in a Correctional zoo.
The shock is permanent like the caged primate
who suddenly detects he—s human. A Homo Erectus
stands upright on guard outside his cell.
For the record, good friend, tropes are brutal,
relentless, miraculous as a son—s birth. King Kong—s
memoir gets repeated on the evening news
like a horror flick, and everywhere dark men
are savagely ambushed. So, when a woman strolls
towards a homeless Bigger, the audience
tenses up involuntarily beneath a cone of light.
This is the work of blockbusters: Kala—s groan
twisting on a steel cot, and by morning—s sunlight,
your cramped hand. Pages pile to a tome
on a kitchen table; its defense is three-fifths
human, two-fifths man. I await its world premiere;
till then, when the soul hears of black guards who strike
harder, the brain goes arthritic, tropes proliferate,
and a wide screen blooms with images of heavy-weights
whose gloved-hands struggle to balance a pen.