Category Archives: Spring Green

Gullywasher

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At least no one was tailgating tonight
on the way home from work. It was a mess
of almost hydroplaning in the ruts
and lightning striking—BAM! with thunder right
away. And super low visibility
sometimes, I’d think “I should pull over now”
but then I couldn’t see where or how
and then it would clear up a little. Briefly.

The mulberries and mulberry-flavored bird shit
on my car is gone, washed away to compost
somewhere I don’t know where. Is that it?
You accept your level of suffering and the most
you can do in the dark is find the tiniest spot
of light? Clean car, and I’m alive. That’s actually a lot.

I Can’t Stop Saying Hoagy

“I’m a bit disappointed in myself. I know I could have accomplished a hell of a lot more… I could write anything any time I wanted to. But I let other things get in the way…. I’ve been floating around in the breeze.” Hoagy Carmichael

I’ve realized I don’t know much about Hoagy
except how happy his music and his name make me.
I’m not even sure I knew that “Heart and Soul”
was really a song beyond plunking it out
on any random piano. I first heard “Hong Kong Blues”
from a George Harrison album. Weird but true.
Hoagy sings the whole song in “To Have and Have Not”
which my sweet little town showed on the big screen last week.
He called his onscreen self a “hound-dog-faced
old musical philosopher noodling on the honky-tonk.”
When someone who did so much still wants to say
it wasn’t enough? It was enough. Even just that scene
when Cricket asks, “Hey Slim, are you still happy?”
That smile, that wiggly dance, that smile expanding.

_____

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This is Hoagy Carmichael’s house in Bloomington, Indiana.

Allure

Before the play I watched her sit, posed, on a rock,
one knee bent up, near her chin. She was covered just so
modestly with what can only be called a frock,
one bright red shoe dangling from a pedicured toe.
Let me say more about her fabulous dress
which I got to observe going down the hill after
the play. Sheer and sleeveless, white, a mess
of summer flowers painted on the skirt.
Everything looked expensive and just exactly right.
I haven’t mentioned yet how old she was.
Seventy-something I’m guessing, which is why
it wasn’t a surprise to see her favoring her knees
as we made our way to the parking lot and why
I can’t get the way I saw her first out of my mind.

______

 

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These are my red shoes. Not hers. Still.

 

______
I saw her before and after seeing The Unexpected Man at the Touchstone @ American Players Theatre (which is wonderful and which you should go see and which I will write about more if I can think of anything to say other than “perfect”) so of course I couldn’t possibly say anything to this woman about any of this.

The Drawn Line

Excitement at breakfast: a house centipede
dropped from the ceiling (the ceiling fan?)
onto the kitchen table and skittered
(that is their word; almost nothing else
so purely skitters as they) through the clutter
on the table and onto the floor.
My husband rushed in responding
to the hollering and the laughing.
We don’t kill house centipedes at our house.
We gather them up and move them outside.
All of us do that, but this time my husband did
because my son and I were still laughing
and hollering. I kept saying how
I thought it was a mouse. I must have said
“corner of my eye” a dozen times.

The gentle gathering and removing is the mode
for spiders too, for my husband and son. It isn’t mine.
I blithely kill spiders inside. I don’t even apologize.
We all smush ants, every spring
in the seasonal onslaught of ants
which recedes by the middle of June
whether or not we clean obsessively
or put out syrupy poisons, so lately
we do nothing but annihilate them on sight.

And once again I’m fascinated by that line
we draw and where we draw it,
what we kill and what we eat
and what all we’re willing to tolerate.

What makes us say “oh well,”
what makes us say “enough,”
what makes us say nothing at all
because we didn’t see it skittering,
not even from the corner of our eye.

_____

Here’s a great blog post about house centipedes, which advocates for not killing them. I concur. But I’m less open to any blog about live and let live modes for spiders. Or ants.

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Consolation for the Coming Dark

1
Call it what you want–global weirding,
climate change–it’s just flat-out wrong
to hit 80 degrees in mid-October, in Wisconsin,
mosquitoes swarming like it’s June.
Humid muck and sweat, it makes me long for snow,
reconciles me to the dimming of the light.

2
The third trimester has to be ungodly
uncomfortable, the backaches, the chafing,
the raw, red stretch marks. The pain
that’s coming seems at that point,
if not nothing, then at least something
bearable, something, anything, better
than lumbering around. Just get it out.

3
The love that died,
the job that changed,
the tree that lost its leaves.
Rusted muffler,
curdled milk,
worn out shoes.
The show that jumped the shark,
the friend who wouldn’t go home,
the skirt that fell out of style.
Insufficient postage
on the Star Wars stamp
you found in your desk.

4
What’s next and what’s enough and when
will all of this seem clear and would a funeral help?
To signal things are different now,
I know it’s different now,
the past is done, I know it’s done,
I’m ready to move on?
Tomorrow’s wonderful and awful
and so’s today and is tomorrow’s sunrise,
possibly orange and pink and lovely,
any kind of consolation for the coming dark?
__________

I’ve been enjoying Rob Bell’s podcast lately. He had Peter Rollins on a couple times (always blows my mind) and then a great one on Seasons, which made me think maybe we should have a funeral at my workplace, for the way things used to be.

See, budget cuts have made this a very different place to work. In the classroom it’s much the same (wonderful as always, I tell people, and it’s true), but outside class–really different. We’re functioning, for the most part, doing our best, but it’s really, really different.

Then I decided, no, we shouldn’t have a funeral, because there are already enough people worried my sweet little campus will close.  I don’t think it will close, and having a funeral wouldn’t have meant that I was thinking it would close, but I could imagine someone seeing it that way.

Having a funeral would have meant I understand the past is gone.   Whatever was, isn’t now.  Having a funeral would have meant I could feel what I’m feeling, really give it full vent, and then move on.  Look around and see things with clearer eyes.

So, no funeral.  But I might write down a couple things I particularly miss, and light them on fire in my backyard, and tell them goodbye.  I might sing a little song.  I might read this out loud, from Ecclesiastes 3:

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

And then just because the changes at work come from budget cuts of which I don’t approve, I might also read this one from Ecclesiastes 9:11:

“the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to those with understanding, nor yet favour to those with skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

And then I think I might feel better. Or maybe not.

 

 

 

Somewhere in Eastern Montana on a Train

The rocks rise up just like Jehovah scat,
vast droppings from the great mad God above.
The train won’t stop. I don’t know where I’m at.

I might be lost. I might have been kidnapped.
The train’s so cold I’m wearing gloves.
The rocks rise up just like Jehovah scat,

but they’re not visible on my little map.
The lounge car is the only home I have
because the train won’t stop. Where I’m at

is a deeply pleasing dizzy place, perhaps
because I’m reading The Sheltering Sky, which I love.
The rocks rise up just like Jehovah scat

on these Great Plains! Foothills! The snow, like sand,
obscures the tracks. How do we even move?
The train won’t stop. I don’t know where I am

with all my wonder wander wonder shit.
I’ll be home for Christmas soon enough.
The rocks rise up like Jehovah scat.
The train won’t stop. I don’t know where I’m at.

____________

Christmas 1989  I rode the Empire Builder train from Whitefish, Montana to Chicago and then the train they call the City of New Orleans on down into Southern Illinois. It was a miserable trip. There was a lot of snow and it was very cold (in North Dakota? Who could have expected that?) and the bathrooms kept freezing up. We stopped at every station, trashed the bathrooms, and by the time I got to St. Louis, the train was more than 24 hours late. You can keep your romantic train travel visions to yourself, thank you very much.

Unless you’re Laura Gibson, in which case I feel so lucky to have caught your show at The Shitty Barn.  (Sometimes I can’t stand how lucky I am to live in Spring Green.  The barn’s just a short walk from my house.)

Her new album is called Empire Builder, and as she sang the title track, I was reminded that I’d tried and tried to write a poem that captured the weirdness of that train trip.  Given my track record of poems about that trip (#27yearsoftrying), I may still not have done it.  But I got inspired whilst Laura was singing and wrote it all, there (almost all–revised some when I got home).

So thanks to the Shitty Barn & thanks to Laura Gibson for a great night and a little fit of inspiration. Have a listen to her song “The Cause”  and see if you get inspired your own self.

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Oh, how I love thee, Shitty Barn.

 

 

The Year of Buffalo Pokey

An embarrassment of entertainment riches, really.

In less than a week, all within a few minutes of my house, I’ve seen two great plays and one great concert.

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Pokey LaFarge and his horn section.

All that greatness is dizzying, apparently.

In a dizzy moment, I asked the usher to help me figure out where I was sitting for David Mamet’s American Buffalo last night.  She looked at the ticket, here:

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“You’re in Aisle 2,” she said (which was actually the only thing I was confused about–still not quite familiar enough with the aisles in the wonderful Touchstone to know for sure where to go). “Row E, Seat 204,” she said.

Well, all of us looking at the ticket now can clearly see it was Row F.

Imagine if I were sitting near Teach or Donny from American Buffalo.

“Fucking usher,” Teach would’ve said (not taking any responsibility for looking closely at his own ticket).

“Sorry, sorry,” Bobby would’ve said, when the correct inhabitants pointed out they wanted the seat they paid for.

“No shame in a simple mistake,” Donny might have said to himself later in the evening, after moving from Row E, Seat 204, to Row D, Seat 204.

But then what would Teach say, when he realized, after the house manager pointed it out later, that Row D, Seat 204 also belonged to someone else?  And what would he have said when he pulled out the ticket to show the house manager who gently pointed out, “That’s the wrong date.  And the wrong play,” thus:

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Teach would’ve had a manic meltdown; I just felt flustered (the house manager was just trying to figure out what the issue was; she’d found seats for the other people already). I said I’m sorry a bunch & I’ll say it again, to whomever I displaced, “I’m sorry.”

Last night, the second half of American Buffalo almost immediately distracted me from my flustered state.

What a play.

I’m so, so pleased American Players Theatre decided to do Mamet.  And this play.  With these actors, because, of course–Brian Mani is perfect as Donny, put-upon, and too generous, and forgiving in such a complex way we feel equal parts pity and admiration for how he navigates his little world.

And oh, what frightening fun to watch Jim Ridge as Teach.

Part of the pleasure of going to APT year after year is seeing the actors in different roles. As I was driving home last night I was remembering Ridge as Tartuffe–serpentine and frightening and clever.  I think Teach thinks he’s serpentine and frightening and clever, but what’s frightening is how wrong he is about everything, how worked up he is about how right he thinks he is.  Poor Teach–he’s in a play by Mamet, not Moliere.

Awfully nice work, too, by Brendan Meyer, as Bobby.  And once again, I love plays directed by Kenneth Albers.

If you haven’t gone yet, you should go.  Or, to put in Mamet terms, you should fucking get there already. Lots of shows available from now through October.

You should also go see The Year of Magical Thinking.

Aaron Conklin has a fine review that I concur with, on every point.

In my head, I routinely mis-label Didion’s amazing piece as The Year of Living Dangerously, and that’s not entirely wrong. It’s a dangerous place Didion goes to, narrating her harrowing time when she lost her husband and child. It strikes me as dangerous for APT to have chosen the play, given the difficult subject matter. Sarah Day plunges into the danger of the subject matter, of course–courage has to be in the top five features of her mode as an actor.

And it is a dangerous journey for an audience, but it’s not unrelenting awfulness.  It really did feel like a journey, a necessary one.  There is humor and insight, too, but most importantly, I felt different when I left.  As though I had traveled somewhere I needed to go, and that I could now move on.  Kind of like a gentler, prettier Charon taking me partway across the river Styx and back to the land of the living.  A three-hour tour (well, actually two).

Pretty amazing. Lots of tickets available from now until October.

There are no more tickets for Pokey LaFarge, that show is done.  There are plenty of tickets left for other shows at The Sh*tty Barn, however, and if you’re kicking yourself for missing Pokey, you might get yourself a ticket for Nick Brown on July 30. In the venn diagram of Barn Sessions, there’s some overlap between Pokey and Nick in the area of Gentlemen Country/Western Swing styles–a genre I hadn’t realized I was craving until Nick’s show last summer.

I knew I was going to enjoy Pokey’s music, but I was a little nervous it was going to be hipster country, given the theatricality of the photos.  When I told people about him I’d been saying he looked like k.d. lang and Pee Wee Herman had a love child, and I’m not taking that back because it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever come up with.

But I was happy to find out that k.d. lang was a good call–musically, it was a rich night, and the theatricality was not so much camp as just big, big fun.

The horn section was great:

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And once again, one of the many extreme pleasures of the Barn is how close you are to the performers.  I zoomed in a little, but not much to get this shot of Pokey his own self:

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Everyone should come see great stuff in Spring Green. All summer long.