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Monday, 31 December 2012

Weekly Wisdom From Mr.Trollope

Who does not know the way in which a man may set himself at work to gain admission into a woman's heart without addressing hardly a word to herself? --Marion Fay

Countdown to Begin Again

A couple of nights after Christmas there was a storm. I had tried to go to bed at a more reasonable hour than most nights; it was 1:30 in the morning.  Around three A.M. I woke to a clap of thunder and a room illuminated by lightening, and I was up.  I read a chapter of a most lovely Trollope novel I recently started: The Small House at Allington; I worked on a couple of lines of a new poem; I ate a clementine; I turned to the internet.  Facebook is a snowy world at night, something on pause, or what a slow reverse looks like if it were moving forward. Held aloft like an icicle trying to form on the end of a warmish nose.  A few nights earlier, I had been awakened by cats, had signed on to the FB to find two other people up in the night--awakened by a total of five cats.  Three humans up in the night go to Facebook with their plight (Click here). The two other humans don't know each other; only I saw this particular pelmanism forming on the screen: there is a companionable loneliness in coincidence, and I believe in it.  It is sometimes inconsequential, like cats and humans in the night; it can be meaningful, like a grasping of hands or a virtual embrace.  The newsfeed ticks on, counting time.
     On that night a couple of nights after Christmas, when there was a storm, I turned to my computer to play me some music.  I was searching for a song, something so right for the middle of the night--Paul Simon, handsome and young.  I was searching for a recipe, something beautiful that tastes as complex as it looks.  I was searching for a story, something else that couldn't sleep, so I could share.  I was pleased to encounter this, one of my favorite Simon songs about sleeplessness but sung by a fan, Simon standing behind her, guitar in hand while she played his music.  This was the moment to take back to sleep: an image, an encounter, an idea like a dream in a hand, something that counts backward to how we learn to play music, how we learn to tell stories, how we learn to re-imagine the future. Pages that turn in any direction to keep you moving forward, sleep that is interrupted only to give you more dreams, storms that sound like something from more places on the map than just your bedroom.
Today, on New Year's Eve day, I will be at The Morgan Library, my sanctuary in this city.  Its glass and its stone, its blonde, modern wood and its dark panelled library, its cash registers and its vault.  It is a good place to be as the year begins again, to spend some time with the ages, spend some time in the place I last saw my grandfather alive, spend some time with the optimism of paper--living and dead and always useful.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Weekly Wisdom From Mr. Trollope

"Love desires an equal."  --The Duke's Children

Meet the Breeds

Your fur, your paws, your unbiased tongue;
flesh and fingernails, the sweep and the scrape of introduction.
Pounding the wrong way down city streets
in rush hour.

It is body language that sings her elegy;
friend and foe, the friction and the frisee of first touch.
Instructions read: keep your palm down and 
extend toward nose

It is enchanting to meet you;
wrists and ribbons, the perfume and the clasp of ownership.
Imagined arms, legs wrapped around
soft upturned bellies.  

Monday, 17 December 2012

Silent Night

I've been thinking about children this week, and not saying much--it's hard to know where to move in the face of so much grief.  Recently, I've taken to making Sunday a day where I record my day in pictures, and I share those photos on various social media outlets as I see fit.  The Sunday of this particular week, I paused.  These quotidian things, what place do they have in a world shown in such startling negative image, I thought.  I decided, eventually,  to carry on, to give myself a gentle push and expose my film, and my little world to the light; in a picture of my girlfriend's child on her fifth birthday, wearing the crown of silver leaves I sent her, in a picture of the dough I rolled out to feed to my friends, in a picture of a poem that means something to me.  These little joys are my way to leave space for hope, for beauty, for kindness in the face of injury.  
Children have surrounded me this week--in each instance, an act of creation; I watched children perform in a play, I looked on as my little cousin and her friends presented a puppet show at a Chanukah dinner, I saw that little girl put on a crown and become an ice princess for the day, and I was in the audience of The Nutcracker, surrounded by children, on stage and off.  I've danced in Nutcrackers too numerous to mention but even after I hung up my pointe shoes, the ballet beckons me; it's a celebration of sorts for me when I go--of youth and memory, of dance and the treachery of ageing limbs.  I wear my hair in a bun.  I wear a dress.  I wear ballet flats.  And so do the little girls around me with their mothers and grandmothers--all of us celebrating.  We think of  The Nutcracker as a holiday story, about a toy soldier, and a seasoning of ethnically inspired dances.  Sometimes that is indeed all you see.  But I have a favorite Nutcracker; it belongs to the American Ballet Theatre, and it is rather new as ballets go.  In it, I see the real story: the struggle and the bittersweet of growing up.  A girl has a doll, and the doll becomes a live boy.  He is her cavalier, and she loves him.  They travel together to a land where they meet their adult parallels, and we watch the woman Clara and the man Cavalier dance as only men and women can; they partner.  He supports her, lifts her, carries her as she soars through her life.  When Clara wakes up from her dream--a little girl in a little bed with a little doll, she wakes to find both men, young and old at either end of her bed.  She makes her choice, and runs, arms outstretched for the grown man, who quickly disappears.  She is too young.  She turns and finds that now the boy is gone too.  The time for men and love is still the stuff of dreams for her, and she holds her soldier doll as she returns to sleep.  It is precious, this life of hers; what she holds and what she dreams and what she dances.  And so I look around the children in my life and in my own dreams, and dance for them and with them, still seeing fairy doors in tree trunks while looking both ways before we cross the street.    

Friday, 14 December 2012

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

There are some achievements which are never done in the presence of those who hear of them; catching salmon is one and working all night is another.

All Men Were Sailors

He gives waiting a new name,
letters cracked before some waltz
between the inky wisps of
offspring’s breathless consummations.

She’d say the man came from the sea,
deliberate flesh sweeping the dawn.
Mermaid’s tears they say save drowning men;
experts at watermarks on--

wait--paper from the trees that sip on mystery
and useless homage.  A communion
by breeze, passing by like
forfeit of worry in the storm.

He gives waiting a new name: outside,
what hopeful knowing shakes for that flesh,
his flesh, and three ripe bruises.  Waits--
for the letters of my name, land-locked,

and searching for the sea.

Like faith, I am everywhere and always
different: I could live in any house, sigh
my pages over many shores.  I could
give waiting a new name.

My sea secrets inhabit more my ancestry, anatomy,
I am precise, and fineness form.
Forgotten is a long, long time, and
when you think about it,

the things you crave--wait--gasp
and swallow everything
to recreate the world.

She’d say--I came from the sea--
as if leaving open shelves could heave
her stories into waiting caves.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Weekly Wisdom From Mr. Trollope

"The secrets of the world are very marvellous but they are not themselves half so wonderful as the way in which they become known to the world."

The Once and Future Queen

    I returned from a showing of the new film adaptation of Anna Karenina to find a message from the teacher with whom I'd studied the novel; stars flood the sky at times, rhyming with those that look upon them. The book has always had an allure to me; as a teenager it was an object whose name jumped out at me from the shelves of my parents' books. "Anna Karenina."  Mysterious, beautiful, Russian, eminently female. When I was 16, I chose it for myself, the first "grown-up" book I read unassigned.  It, and not any work by Dickens (who would later become my focus), was my true entree into the Victorian novel, into the time period that I knew resonated  with me in art viewed, costumes worn, plays performed.
     It occurred to me as I watched the Stoppard adaptation, which places the story and its characters within the context of a theatre, how much Anna is like an actor, with her ever suggestible mind.  Her present life is static; it has little movement.  But then she boards a train, and travels to Moscow, where the vision of a man suggests to her--perhaps memories she used to have, perhaps ideas for what the future could hold--and she creates a new and vibrant present. This creation is what happens in the theatre, where past and future combine to make a present--a heightened present, a dramatic present.  A constructed present.    
     There are some stories that take on a life larger than their own--like the tales of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table--that confuse history and allegory, fact and myth--a world created for the world at large.  Anna Karenina is such a story: an expansive tale, far flung and far reaching.  I was so pleased that this latest cinematic treatment used a theatrical framework to encompass the tale's scope.  That the narrative is placed inside a jewel-box of a Victorian theatre reminds us that this is a story; this is an imagined world that must be contained, whether between two covers, a proscenium, or a screen--or, indeed, the mind of our heroine.  And the limitation enhances its universality; theatres are small but they hold a world.  Because it is small, its reach can be wide.  It is such a beautiful way to take these characters off their pages, and breathe them into a place where we re-imagine humanity.  To see it on the screen even more lovely--the medium of film bows to the living nature of theatre.  Frames within frames, as Pirandellian as it gets, a trinity of limitless time.   There are so many ways to open a story, so many ways to re-tell them.  It is this cyclical drama that compels me at the moment, as I prepare to return to a world I visited once before, to get to know a character I met for a time, re-discover the woman I was with her then and discover the woman I can be with her now
     I begin to remember that land like watermarks on my skin, or in a gesture, a turn of phrase, and then I begin to re-imagine it on different soil, suggest to myself the possibilities.  It was once and will be again, and that is how I'll presently find myself on a plane to Camelot.  Camelot!    I hear there's not a more congenial spot . . . .