CALL ME PENELOPE
Call me Penelope
tear about my house
(wherever I build)
to the lake, to the yard, out the gate, after balls, after ice cream, playing tag
they fly through
my dew spangled creation
never stopping to admire the diamonds I’ve caught
they stop instead
me from eating
shredding my web
warping my weft
of breakfast bereft
Hungry but resolute,
At Night on the Stairs
A blue candle dripped elegantly from Gloria’s hand; it just keeled left, melting now obviously, profusely. Quentin relentlessly scrubbed the ugly, viscous wax. Xenia yelled, “Zowie!”
No Offense, But
One: Invariably preceding something offensive, this phrase disguises
cruelty as freindly advice.
Two: Don't call me But!
Those Winter Sundays BY ROBERT HAYDEN
Those Winter Sundays
BY ROBERT HAYDENSundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
Navigating? Get Lost!
Hendrick Ibsen and Tana French make wonderful companions but lousy co-pilots. Lost in their stories, I miss my train stop.
Two tales spring to mind. I was ten, sitting in Mrs. Franklin’s stuffy classroom, predisposed to loathe Jack London’s To Build a Fire. I loved reading, but hated anything that was assigned, that pretended to be a story but was really a boring prelude to … there’s no polite term for it … a spelling test. But I couldn’t escape, so I bit down hard and read.
He marvels at how his fingers work, reflexively backing off a hot match. What it’s like to fumble. How cold he is. We’re on a mountain (not in a cinderblock room) and for the first time I forgot about liking the character, or wanting to live the story, and thought, “Wow! This is good!” Granted, not astounding literary criticism, but London’s observations sped through my veins. I wanted more. When that dog trotted off with no moralizing on London’s part, I felt like I was in the presence of Truth.
In Biblo Veritas?
Maybe. Sometimes literature is communion, sometimes it’s just a fantastic drunken yarn. Either way, decades later I walk my dog and recall To Build a Fire.
That same year, my friend Susan told me about George Orwell’s Animal Farm. (I realize now I should thank her; I’ll send her this.) The death of Little Women’s sapless Beth March bored me, but the not-quite-loud-enough clatter of Boxer’s hooves pounding inside the glue truck makes my heart seize. Remembering the stolen puppies who return as attack dogs, I worry about the kids caged at our border. Are they being siphoned off for a children’s army? If only that was preposterous, but in light of everything Orwell has gotten right … and those crazy militias… and so-called Christians…and … What could be more terrifying? Meanwhile, Squealer skips as he manipulates because, you know what? Lying is fun! Ill-gotten gains are attractive! Orwell never flinches and I can’t take my eyes off his page.
So, I miss my stop. And maybe I learn something. And if I don’t? The best dancers I know are in excellent shape, but that’s not their motivation. They dance because they love it. If books improve my mind, I’m grateful, but I’m fine if that’s a delusion. It’s more than enough to be Ibsen’s lover, London’s junkie, Orwell’s disciple, while wandering lost with French— just let me read.