Saturday, April 3, 2010


LEFT: Men hauling tuna nets, Trapani, Sicily,
by Andrea Pistolesi

The Academy of American Poets asked people to share "the lines of poetry that are the most vital to you, along with notes about the precise situation that summoned them to mind."

Reading the respones here: Life/Lines,
I want to dig into the various pockets of my life for lines always to hand, like a tube of Carmex, or surprising, like a twenty in last year's winter coat.

I will post a few here and there for National Poetry Month.

Today I have a newly minted one. It's an accidental poem, still crisp from that ATM, my e-mail inbox:

Hey, Grrrl!

Did I screw up?
I thought you were coming over today
--Good Friday--
at 3 p.m. to our house.
I wrote it in my journal
right away.
Maybe my brain was goofy from back pain.... Come over, please
if you can. I've made organic salade nicoise and

here you are!


I had arrived at 4 p.m. (the time I had written down), my doorbell interrupting the writer, my friend Stef, but she sent it anyway, an unusual freeze-frame of a body entering into the nets.

I didn't open the message until this morning, and it made me laugh, like William Carlos Williams's plums. (You know.)

The time and day and mention of pain* give this casual "where ARE you?" note an extra resonance. Even the salad with its tuna echoes the old Catholic practice of fasting from meat on Fridays (even now, during Lent).

In fact, the writer is Jewish, which the reader can't know. But I do;
so, it doesn't count in the world, but in my pocket there's another intersection because this year Good Friday falls fittingly during Passover.

All this was accident--like the note itself--neither Stef nor I were celebrating, it just happened to be the day that worked to get together.
The final reason I love this notepoem is because we had such a nice evening--lying around on her couch late, eating candied ginger and chocolate-covered almonds and laughing.
Yeah, that's not in the note either, but the question is,
Why are these lines in your pocket?

I'd love to hear what's in other people's.

* re time, day, pain: Jesus died at 3 p.m. on Good Friday. It hurt.


Clowncar said...

In the dawn I gathered cedar-boughs
Sweet, sweet was their odor,
They were wet with tears—
The sweetness will not leave my hands.

Lines encountered during a time of grieving, and have never left me.

Fresca said...

Oh my.
I recognize that grief, but not the poem.

I googled it
"Song of Whip-Plaiting," by Constance Lindsay Skinner).

"Little roots of pain are deep, deep in me
Since I saw thee standing in my doorway."


Thank you.

Kellie said...

"You do not have to be good"

The entire poem is a touchstone for me ("Wild Geese," Mary Oliver), but that's the line that scrolls behind my eyes in all-caps at times. It is my talisman against useless guilt.

Clowncar said...

One more, that used to roll around in my head when I lived in Mpls, next to the Mississippi.

"I do not know much about Gods, but I think the river is a strong brown God." - TS Eliot.

I love that river.

Anonymous said...

OY, Gottenu, as my maternal grand and great grand mothers used to say--which I think is the diminutive of g-d in Yiddish--I am thrilled and humbled, and intimidated or threatened only in the most positive senses of the words to have that crazy email morphed into a poem by thee, Oh Goddess Fresca! It's all about laughter and community and synchronicity lately..helps with pain of whatever kind. Just got back from dining out and laughing with dear newer friends to the sultry sounds of "my" Vicky and my James. Then had to listen in to "Old Jews Telling Jokes" online to see if I could find the one with the punchline that James just couldn't remember at our jesting table tonight...then had to check my email to see what treats were there and that led to THIS. A joke from those elders before i drop to the floor to do my yogic stretches, then:

Why are Jewish men circumcised?

Because Jewish womyn won't touch anything that's not 20% off!

Happy Pesach, Easters ,etc. (I am going to have to check out the WC Williams poem, now. Can I get my PhD in Gugeo studies, please!?!)

Love Laughter and Revolution! Jesus did all of these!


Anonymous said...

Whoops, I meant paternal, not maternal g-mas; the maternal ones spoke Arabic. And, the first time I typed that circumcision joke, I put "Why are Jewish men circumscribed?" Ay de mi! Middle age, late nights, jazz,back pain, red wine and jokes do not coherence make. What would Freud say about all this? Do I care? Nah. Give me Marx--(Karl or Groucho, et al)--instead!



Margaret said...

I love this little e-mail-poem, (and what a fit expression for the inbox--ATM!)

One that's been lodged in me since a period of Frost fanaticism a couple years back:

"They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars - on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places."

- Robert Frost, Desert Places

momo said...

I posted a poem by Cesar Vallejo on my blog. It's in spanish and I can't find the better translation of it into English (there is one by Robert Bly that is servicable, but even the better one by Clayton Eshelman is not great. It's a resurrection poem without god. It reminds me that we are never alone.

Fresca said...

KELLIE: "Wild Geese" must be a balm to so many people beaten with the stick of "you do have to be good."

The Mary Oliver line I like best is
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

I like the way she phrases it as an invitation to a conversation. Something one might ask over tea. So, tell me...

CLOWNCAR: Oh, poems have such associations.
I used to have a difficult love who quoted those lines to me when we first walked over the pedestrian bridge over the Mississippi.
(Did you go to school here? If you did, you'd know it--the Washington Ave. bridge).

I thought this was wonderful, but it turned out he quoted it every single time he crossed the bridge, and by about the 9th time, I wanted to push him over.
Still, it IS a good line, and a great river.

STEF: Always pleased to intimidate and threaten, in the most POSITIVE sense. : )
Thanks for the joke!

MARGARET: Wonderful lines!
I don't know the poem.

I was shocked when I realized what an amazing poet Frost was, having thought he wrote Christmas greeting cards (Happy Holidays for the Snowy Woods)
or refrigerator magnets:
"Take the road less chosen!" (Just like everybody else.)
I must look at him again.

MOMO: I found it on youTube--will post it later!

Jennifer said...

Speaking of Frost, my favorite:, typed from memory so the lines may break in the wrong places

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

I love its succinctness, the colloquial sound of it even though it scans and rhymes in classical style. And I love the un-"Frost"ness of it--no Hallmark poetry there. :)

My favorite part of your impromptu received poem is the "Come over, please
if you can."

The way the line break gives a pause and then a softening--"I'm sorry, was I too demanding? Perhaps you can't make that case, no problem." :)

I'd forgotten April was poetry month. I should put up a few of my favorites this month.