"Now I am six
as clever as clever.
I want to be six
forever and ever.
The man, is he her father or grandfather? One doesn't want to presume, tells me he used to live
near Robert Frost's house. And that leads us to talking about all the poets at inaugurations, Frost at Kennedy, Maya Angelou at Clinton, and then we recite Frost together, "Whose woods these are, I think I know..." Between us, line by line, we have it all. At some point, of course, I have told them I am Santa Fe's Poet Laureate and I give them my card. The little girl is looking up with awe or surprise on her face.
I walk away, all of us smiling, and think, how wonderful the invisible moments of these two years are.
I got to read at Boise High School, in the library, and then lead a Creative Writing class taught by my friend over the years, Sharon Hanson. I ended up reading poems about death, many of them are, and one where a boy dies in a freak sledding accident. I asked if any of them had lost peers and two hands went up, of the thirty brown bagging it for poetry. Afterwards the librarian said it was perfect that I read that poem. They had lost a student two weeks before. Earlier it would have been too raw, but talking about the poem as the container for grief and joy felt spot on.
Here is a poem sent to me by Merrit Salathe:
When I was born
the world curdled
and a film was skimmed off the top.
When I turned eight
my dad would make me cappuccinos
in small crackled cups.
He and I flew to New Orleans.
In the French Quarter
I wept at the loss of two perfect pearls-
hastened from shop to
only an image in my mind:
Easter, poisonous Ebony, white out
on the family tree.
He and I sat in a café
drinking café au lait
that saturated beignets
into an aphrodisiac meant for
ten years later.
We walked on ground
sick with dead water
and FEMA trailers.
Shimmering heat miraged my white tambourine
but all I wanted was to hear its negative
sung once live by my
favorite artist turned scientologist.
We drove through vacant spray painted suburbs,
the water lines
etched in like a filthy skin.
“There’s the house where I was born,” he said,
“The Catholic school where the talking
icebox man and I dropped a conch.”
I was born post-earthquake
But hurricane threats flow in my blood.
My third recent PL moment came after a rare Tres Chicas Books meeting. We had been taped for a radio show to publicize our new book, Love & Death:Greatest Hits, and then met for dinner and planning. Afterwards Renée Gregorio and I decided to hit Ross Dress for Less and check out the nighties. We have shopped together a few times, always memorable, Pennys in Taos, The Cottonwood Mall in Burque, and now a Santa Fe jaunt. You must realize there are about ten years between each shopping episode. At the De Vargas Mall there was a man in Hastings Books and Music, just sitting there next to his stack of books. He was my age, nicely dressed, and looked how I often felt at a lack-luster poetry event. I talked to him, bought his book for good luck, and headed into Ross. "Did you tell him you were Poet Laureate?" Renée teased? Of course I did and that I had a reading tomorrow. Then I engaged in some altruistic shopping where in the depressing Ross dressing rooms I gave the skirt I loved and lusted after to a woman older than myself, shopping alone who said She came in to cheer herself up and now she felt worse. She loved the skirt, and found another the same style. I realized that altruistic shopping is right up there with altruistic Scrabble as mentally questionable. How will I get ahead? Ayn Rand is turning over in her self-righteous and self-centered grave.
The guy with the books came by my reading, couldn't stay. Turns out he lives in Mexico, passing through, and is tennis partners with our friend, and Tres Chicas author Tom Ireland. "Nothing good is wasted" I learned from a folk tale from Gioia Timpanelli. Michael and I err on the side of give away. When he does it I can get agitated, but when I choose to give, it seems just right. At least with giving poetry it doesn't wreck the bank account. Neither does altruistic shopping.