Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 139: To another island, in another life.

"Aren't you supposed to be somewhere else?"

These words greet her as she enters her alma mater. Possible responses:

Aren't we all?

No, I'm just where I want to be.


Actual response: "I'm leaving for India soon!"

The English hallway now. A girl cries in her rush to beat the bell. "It's the anniversary of my mom's death tomorrow." "Are you sure you want to go to class? I'll be in the studio all day. Come find me. Do you want me to wait outside?" What does one say.


Today's bowls are to become papyri. As she smooths out her slab, she recycles the cup of her second caffeinated beverage of the day.

She fills the first bowl with these words:

On me dit que nos vies ne valent pas grand chose.
Elles passent en un instant comme fanent les roses.
On me dit que le temps qui glisse est un salaud que de nos chagrins il s'en fait des manteaux pourtant quelqu'un m'a dit que tu m'aimais encore,
C'est quelqu'un qui m'a dit que tu m'aimais encore.
Serais ce possible alors?


Then, Symphonic Choir. The conductor: "I'll be at a funeral tomorrow. It's to be an all-day affair."

The second and third bowls read:


When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;--then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.  



"Would you like something to drink?" "I've already had--tea would be nice, thank you."

The fourth:

To sing, to laugh, to dream,
To walk in my own way, and be alone,
Free, with an eye to see things as they are,
A voice that means manhood ~ to cock my hat
Where I choose ~ At a word, at a Yes, a No,
To fight ~ or write. To travel any road
Under the sun, under the stars, nor doubt
If fame or fortune lie beyond the bourne ~
Never to make a line I have not heard
In my own heart; yet, with all modesty
To say: My soul, be satisfied with flowers,
With fruit, with weeds even; but gather them
In the one garden you may call your own.
So, when I win some triumph, by some chance,
Render no share to Caesar ~ in a word,
I am too proud to be a parasite,
And if my nature wants the germ that grows
Towering to heaven like the mountain pine,
Or, like the oak, sheltering multitudes ~
I stand, not high it may be ~
But, I stand alone! 

"Do you find yourself to be pretty happy?" Fervent nods.

And the fifth:

When they taught me that what mattered most
was not the strict iambic line goose-stepping
over the page but the variations
in that line and the tension produced
on the ear by the surprise of difference,
I understood yet didn't understand
exactly, until just now, years later
in spring, with the trees already lacy
and camellias blowsy with middle age,
I looked out and saw what a cold front had done
to the garden, sweeping in like common language,
unexpected in the sensuous
extravagance of a Maryland spring.
There was a dark edge around each flower
as if it had been outlined in ink
instead of frost, and the tension I felt
between the expected and actual
was like that time I came to you, ready
to say goodbye for good, for you had been
a cold front yourself lately, and as I walked in
you laughed and lifted me up in your arms
as if I too were lacy with spring
instead of middle aged like the camellias,
and I thought: so this is Poetry! 

As she makes an obligatory trip to the cafeteria (who needs food when you have art?), her best friend calls. "We are the future, you know that, Ratna?"


After lunch, she gets to watch Aeneas prepare to leave Dido all over again before she teaches a child to love her mother tongue. "The fieri changes its stem into fiere so it can look just like all its friends in the imperfect subjunctive. That way, they won't pick on him."


The end of the school day. Now on to the middle school, encouraging little idle hands to make big empty bowls. "My dog almost died a few weeks ago. I haven't slept well since December," sighs the teacher. "It's that time of year."

Bus home. The driver: "How far is it to India? I was on a plane for an hour once. I don't think I'll ever do it again."
Her eyes swelling, her pores yelling, she is home. To sleep, perchance to dream -- of clay, of civil war, of somewhere else.

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