Monday, February 06, 2006

Sunday's Bright Existence

Sunday, yesterday, was the kind of day that should go on forever. In the morning: early yard work, removal of plants or parts of plants now past prime, the desert sun already bright and luring, calling not unlike the canyon wren a surprising visitor this winter. Then the local farmer's market, with organic red onions, tomotoes, cucumbers. No fresh salsa, but the near-exotic scents of tamales and chile rellenos, the soft stipple of a distant, near-familiar Latin music.

Then the drive to Benson with my good friend and neighbor Judyth, a retired teacher and a visceral writer. Lovely conversation followed by BLTs and thick fries at a local diner. Then off to the Singing Wind Bookshop on Singing Wind Road, a ranch just shy of the dry San Pedro River. Valet parking by a cute, blonde 16-year-old who can't drive a manual, which my car is. In front of us, the poets have arrived: Kenneth McClane, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Brenda Hillman, Robert Hass, and Richard Shelton.

Singing Wind's first-ever UA Poetry Center fundraiser, packed with listeners and old poetry friends, assorted finger foods and mint-sprigged iced tea, and the perfect weather: bright sun, scuttling clouds, an occassional breeze, mid-70s---early February.

McClane reads first, his bluesy lyrics and meter, nearly singing the Harlem poems. Deming next, setting the tone for the afternoon: the poetry of politics, with a new, 12-part poem on 9/11 and the war and Katrina. Power. Then Brenda Hillman, who directs us delicatedly through her spiritual works, including two from her book Bright Existence. Parents in the audience, some mild scrutiny from her father over her distance from the microphone. Followed by Robert Hass, former U.S. poet laureate, with a braid of political poems. How does he weave so many words, so much meaning, into each poem, each "rant" as he calls them? Finally, Shelton---like Deming a local favorite and keystone of the Poetry Center. Incredible, and incredibly sad, poems about the war in Iraq, about losing ourselves, about immigration. Finishing with a wonderful collection of sayings by his mother, a widow for twenty years but now passed.

Plenty of time to browse and buy books, meet the poets, walk back to the car because the valet admits with a blush she cannot drive it. Back out the finely sifted sand road, a quick stop at a fastfood joint for restrooms and Oreo shakes. Back on the interstate, listening to Billy Collins's latest CD, live in NYC with an intro by Bill Murray. Judyth and I saw Collins in Tucson just last weekend. A sort of echo above the highway's hum.

At home in time for much of the Super Bowl, ignoring the commercials to spend time with my girls, to enjoy an indoor picnic of roasted chicken and vegetables, and also to read through Hillman's Bright Existence (1993), from which she read this poem:

The Snakeskin

---And the world bent into the wide,
the field of beige and mild forevers
but the snake wanted something else;

I found its skin of stretchy diamonds
and picked it up, so I could keep
one of the two selves. The skin had eyes and the eyes

had skin, all papery before and afterward,
a little cellophane with dirt
around the rim---that's good;

there had been time for it to be one thing
before the world behind the world
called the snake, and the snake went---

-- Brenda Hillman

Dark outside, my girls gathered under my arms, we read stories from the large blue book: "Bambi," "Hercules." Forgive Disney for the caricatures; the illustrations are delightful, the words forming like new worlds in the mouths of my daughters.

Once they're in bed, I watch the rest of the game, then finish some website work before tucking a bit into the next issue of Work on the poetry section, where I've mocked up excellent poetry by Suzanne Frischkorn, Brian Swann, and Melissa S. Stein. Thinking about the excerpt of Drum Hadley we'll include, with artwork.

Snap out the light, wash up, and join my wife, already in the soft bed of her slumber, already beyond the horizon of Sunday's bright existence.


Bindairdundat said...

Hi--I was browsing around and I enjoy your work a lot. I do similar stuff too (political rants in verse/poetic form). Anyone reading this should definitely feel free to check out my site and give input. Thanks!

The Green Skeptic said...

Wow, sounds like a blissful day -- and home in time for the Super Bowl, even. That was quite a poetry line up! Hope you git a chance to give Alison a hug from me.