Thursday, April 11, 2013

imaginary postcards

I'm sending you imaginary postcards.  Turn this over and you will read . . .

Everything tugs at everything, everything points to everything else. And that is why I return again to this modern psalm. For me it maps out the territory of praise -- our lives as praise, our work as praise --

#23 from the Book of Mercy, by Leonard Cohen

MY SISTER AND I BEING ESTRANGED, I parked my trailer at the furthest limit of her fields, the corner that is left, by law, to the poor.  Her hundreds of cherry trees were blossoming, and on the road to the great stone house that they lined, a lacework of petals.  It was a Saturday.  I reclined against a little hill, a shoot of wheat between mysteeth, looked at the blue sky, a bird, three threads of luminous cloud, and my heart would not rejoice.  I entered the hour of self-accusation.  A strange sound trembled in the air.  It was caused by the north wind on the electric lines, a sustained chord of surprising harmonies, power and duration, greatly pleasing, a singing of breath and steel, a huge string instrument of masts and fields, complex tensions.  Suddenly the judgement was clear.  Let your sister, with her towers and gardens, praise the incomparable handiwork of the Lord, but you are pledged to the breath of the Name.  Each of you in your proper place.  The cherry trees are hers, the grapes and the olives, the thick-walled house; and to you, the unimaginable charities of accident in the Corner of the Poor.
I'm sending it to you like this, on the back of an imaginary postcard, though the words are not mine believing you will hear what I am saying.

It may seem to you, my Imaginary friend, that I'm fobbing you off with quotations from other sources, keeping all my own words locked up.  And maybe I am.  But this is not a helter-skelter scatter I am giving you.  This is my thesis, just without all the interconnecting tissue of furthermore, therefore, and thus we see.  I am talking about something else but really I am pointing more intimately.

And then the next day I will send you . . .

. . . on which I've written nothing except . . . 
"In praise of my sister," by Wislawa Szymborska
My sister doesn't write poems,
and I don't think she'll start writing poems.
She is like her mother who didn't write poems,
and like her father, who didn't write poems either.
Under my sister's roof I feel safe:
my sister's husband would rather die than write poems.
And -- this begins to sound like a found poem --
none of my relations is engaged in writing poems.

There are no old poems in my sister's files
and there aren't any new ones in her handbag.
And when my sister invites me to lunch,
I know she has no plans to read me her poems.
Her soups are excellently improvised,
there is no coffee spilt on her manuscripts.

There are many families where no one writes poems,
but where they do -- it's rarely just one person.
Sometimes poetry splashes down in cascades of generations,
creating terrible whirlpools in mutual feelings.

My sister cultivates a quite good spoken prose
and her writing's restricted to holiday postcards,
the text promising the same each year:
that when she returns
she'll tell us
all about it.

I haven't sent you this one yet . . .

by Sofonisba Anguissola
. . . but I'm thinking about it.  
Thinking of you.  
Wishing we were there.

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