20 June 2008

The Ease of Things

My mind has been settling back into the ease of things. I've been cooking, that's always a good sign--homey foods, comfortable foods that are simple to prepare and rich in taste and somehow infinitely more satisfying than food prepared by a stranger's hands.  Potatoes, creamy tomato pasta sauces, and fresh sliced veggies--they ground me in the simpleness of home. I was lucky, really, to have such a simple childhood. My parents were not rich, so they provided for my brother and I in the manner they knew: good laughter, outdoor play, family suppers. 

I don't know when I began to accumulate so many things. I've always been a bit of a packrat--storing away cards and movie stubs in tupperware boxes under my bed. But when did I start to collect so much stuff that holds no significance for me at all? I long to simplify. Clean out. Get rid of. But somehow, I've convinced myself that I need things. When I picture myself in my new home in Oxford, I see clean things, organized spaces, and warm, comfortable colors gracing the walls in playful splashes. Inevitably, when a mood like this strikes, I want to be a painter. I'm convinced that in a former life I was. In moods like this, I can literally feel the brush in my hand, the paint smudged on my fingertips. It's there, but try as I might, I can't bring the picture in my mind to life. It's hard to sense the beauty of a lived-in space if there are so many things cluttering it up. My creativity is stifled by the busyness of my home. I long for quiet, stillness, and the sense of perfect ease that once came so freely. 

16 June 2008

Sex and Suffering.

I don't typically post poetry unless I have a busy mind, so I guess I'm busy trying to organize the next few months in my mind. I love this poem, so, for your reading pleasure, Tony Hoagland's "Self-Improvement":

Just before she flew off like a swan
to her wealthy parents' summer home,
Bruce's college girlfriend asked him to
improve his expertise at oral sex, 
and offered him some technical advice:

use nothing but his tongue tip
to flick the light switch in his room 
on and off a hundred times a day
until he grew fluent at the nuances
of force and latitude.

Imagine him at practice every evening,
more inspired than he ever was by algebra,
beads of sweat sprouting on his brow,
thinking, thirty-seven, thirty-eight,
seeing, in the tunnel vision of his mind's eye,
the quadratic equation of her climax
yield to the logic
of his simple math.

Maybe he unscrewed
the bulb from his apartment ceiling
so that the passerby would not believe
a giant firefly was pulsing
its electric abdomen in 3b.

Maybe, as he stood
two inches from the wall,
in darkness, fogging the old plaster
with his breath, he visualized the future
as a mansion rising from the hillside
of the shore that he was rowing to
with his tongue's exhausted oar.
Of course the girlfriend dumped him:
met someone apres-ski, who,
using nothing but his nose,
could identify the vintage of a Cabernet.
Sometimes we are asked 
to get good at something we have no talent for,

or excel at something we will never 
have the opportunity to prove.
Often we ask ourselves
to make absolute sense
out of what just happens
and in this way, what we are practicing

is suffering, 
which everybody practices,
but strangely few of us
grow graceful in.

The climaxes of suffering are complex, 
costly, beautiful, but secret.
Bruce never played the light switch again.

So the avenues we walk down, 
full of bodies wearing faces, 
are full of hidden talent:
enough to make pianos moan,
sidewalks split,
streetlights deliriously flicker.