Thursday, December 27, 2012

Shrieking Ninjas, Mary Oliver, and Philip Schultz

Ben and his best bud are shrieking like hyper girls (though ninjas to the core) in this same room where I currently read Mary Oliver. The contrast not as severe as you might imagine. For some odd reason.

Earlier this week, the kids and I had fun with the school reading specialist and her kids at the downtown library (how appropo!) Ben got a bunch of English-translated Japanese comic books (you even have to read them “backwards”!); Olivia got whatever it is she’s into these days; and I got poetry books by Maxine Kumin, Philip Schultz and Mary Oliver. I started Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 last month, but am feeling intimidated by it, so I'll work with a few short poems at a time. I think my mind has been adversely constructed by quick texts and emails.

Last night I read Jack and Other New Poems by Maxine Kumin and Blue Iris by Mary Oliver–enjoying them both, but (as usual) being utterly blown away by Mary Oliver. I want you to be revived too (if you need to be) as I so desperately needed to be. Here are just a few passages (so as not to overwhelm) and THEN, at the end of this post, a totally different, yet also reviving, poem that made me fall in love with Philip Schultz. (How can it be that I long to write like both these giants?)

First, a small sampling of Ms. Oliver:

The first lines from “The Oak Tree at the Entrance to Blackwater Pond”:
Every day 
on my way to the pond 
I pass the lightning-felled, 
hundred-fingered, black oak 
which, summers ago, 
swam forward when the storm

laid one lean yellow wand against it, smoking it open 
to its rosy heart. 
. . . .

How does she DO it?!?!? Sigh, sigh sigh. Now we pause for a moment of reverent silence . . . .
and then take up with something rushing, rhythmic and sexy:

“San Francisco Remembered” by Philip Schultz
In summer the polleny light bounces off the white buildings & you can see their spines & nerves & where the joints knot. You've never seen such polleny light. The whole city shining
 & the women wearing dresses so thin you could see their wing-tipped hips 
& their tall silvery legs alone can knock your eye out. But this isn't about women. It's about the city of blue waters
 & fog so thick it wraps round your legs & leaves glistening trails 
along the dark winding streets. Once I followed such a trail
 & wound up beside this redheaded woman who looked up & smiled 
& let me tell you you don't see smiles like that in Jersey City. She was wearing a black raincoat with two hundred pockets
 & I wanted to put my hands in each one. But forget about her. I was talking about the fog which steps up & taps your shoulder 
like a panhandler who wants bus fare to a joint called The Paradise
 & where else could this happen? On Sundays Golden Gate Park 
is filled with young girls strolling the transplanted palms 
& imported rhododendron beds. You should see the sunset 
in their eyes & the sway, the proud sway of their young shoulders. Believe me, it takes a day or two to recover. Or the trolleys clanking
 down the steep hills—why you see legs flashing like mirrors! Please, Lord, please let me talk about San Francisco. How 
that gorilla of a bridge twists in the ocean wind & the earth 
turns under your feet & at any moment the whole works can crack 
& slip back into the sea like a giant being kicked off his raft 
& now, if it's all right, I would like to talk about women.


Anonymous Esemerelda said...

I have shrieking 12 year olds and lights out hide and go seek going on as I type. It was so good to see you today!
I lean towards Philip Schultz's poem. I do wish I was as well read as you. Has Olivia read any or all the books by Sharon Creech? We have been reading them at night.
I hope to sleep tonight, but if not, I might just look up a few of those poets and breathe deeply.

9:09 PM  

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