Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Poem For Early Summer

The end of an era is a heartbroken promise
But celebrate the good and great things from that time
Didn't your life expand like a baloon, fat and beaming?
Accept the speed limit. Obey local laws.
Ride the tectonic trucks for what they were,
     not what they weren't.
Vacuum your father's barn
Turn your diesel engine into a catamaran
Observe the surf

Then, what better time for spiritual deck-swabbing and sail-hoisting?
Maybe you balance standards, alternating the pirate flag with the snowy egret
Maybe you haul everything in, ass-over-tea-kettle style, laughing even
      (laughing, definitely—you love to laugh), clumsy but effective
So that the horizon offers—to the clear eye—The Next Thing
     when it chooses to float by.
And who knows—you might already be swimming in it, so look around...
Perhaps the flail of sudden water-treading will self-organize into
     a tight stroke, an origami of the water.

The blue sky reminds: there is both calm beauty
     and certain impermanence—it might cloud over by afternoon.
While sunshine pours down upon your sleeping lover's long, brown hair,
     so are the Days of Our Lives (or so they say!)
Yes, there's the daytime soapdish. Use it for hands, often.
Or washing away the drama of a dirty dish.
Clean the drain.
Revel in the pleasure of grilled fish.
If you reach out, the hand next to you brushes with affection
Let the skin squeal with delight
Dance  Stop fighting the sweaty ballroom
Let the simplicity of desire take over, and notice
     what had been obscured, perhaps, by the fine layer
     of sawdust you made when you insisted
     on running the hack saw against the grain.
And there you were, sawing away, with a kind of specialized envy
     reserved for hedge-fund managers and pentacostal snake handlers.
Now there's an audacity you can't quite summon
But you can set down the wrong tools and begin anew.
Start with a film festival.

Feed the birds and what do you have?
Happy birds, actually.
And they don't want your poetry—they'd rather have your crusts.
Divide the loaf sparingly, or with great slabs of garlic gusto.
Mix it up with salad greens and a cold Chablis.
I know the French are a pain in the ass, but gambling on a grape,
     you gotta admire that.
Move South for the panache of grenache.
Reserve a clay court. What a racket!
These people know how to live and that's why we're jealous
     of flower pots on interstates,
     a nouvelle novel,
     an église.
Arousal by the sauté pan    (a romance begins with accent marks)
You plan on fewer mistakes, so why not a pen? An inkwell?
Put on some gifted vinyl and respect when you have to stop
     every 20 minutes—the end of a side.
     The end of a chapter.
Your library is living large.
There will always, always be another good book.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Repertory Re-Ticklings, and the Pleasures of the Dirt

Hello World,

Sorry I've been out of touch for over a month—the longest hiatus from this tiny slice of the Great Blogberry Pie—but Spring deluged me with its swollen clouds and shredded my sails with its spirited winds. When tempests disperse, however, and the heavens sparkle once again, and the sun rises over refreshed earth, and the birds punch the dawn time clock, here's what remains for me:

Bach and baseball (Hit Play and read on.)

I took piano lessons for 7 years as a kid and quit when my teacher wanted me to play Bach and I wanted to play Billy Joel. So lately, with some time on my hands and a new keyboard installed where the Christmas Tree had left an inviting strech of apartmental wall, I liberated my sheet music from the anonymity of mini storage and started playing. And I got better.

It's one of the most basic lessons we learn and yet so easily forgotten: practice pays off. Over the years I winnowed my piano playing goals to just a few songs, and of course over time, large sections of those pieces drained out of my fingers—musical blades gone dull from a profound lack of sharpening. But they're still in there: Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, which made my father weep just a little when a 12-year-old me played it without error one Pennsylvanian summer evening; my favorite rag, Solace, by the incomparable Scott Joplin; and now, also, the elegant musical expression of a strand of human DNA—a few of J.S. Bach's divine preludes, as inevitable as a spider's spun web, and a gift to myself to learn.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox turned their backs on an inglorious start and scaled the craggy backside of the American League East. At this writing, they're on a 9-game winning streak, including two ought-to-be-illegal beat-downs of the Toronto Blue Jays, whom they outscored 30-5, and a gorgeous dismantling of the hapless Yankees, swept back-to-back at home, and who haven't dropped six straight to the Sox since 1912.

My son was pressed into some relief pitching in his 10/11-year-old league. Not his first choice, but when handed the ball, he went about his business with workmanlike resolve, fixing hitters with a flinty stare and a no-nonsense delivery. Struck out one. Despite a winless season for his team, he hasn't lost interest and we focused on discrete victories: excellent at-bats and successful defensive plays. We also picked up some great tips from his coach this year and if he so chooses, I'll be squatting in the dirt with a catcher's mitt any time he wants. Practice yields results. Important for an 11-year-old to learn, on the cusp of the two words most feared in the parental lexicon: Middle School.

Practice for his Dad, who still learns lessons at 41: How best to keep his mouth shut at critical times, how to play winning softball with just a dash of motivational trash talk (again, with the catching), how to filter the beautiful opportunities he's lucky enough to encounter in life, through a Baroque sieve, one note at a time.

Here's to a nice summer, readers, wherever you are, and to taking thoughtful, nurturing steps with the opportunities that matter the most. I'll be trying to do that the best way I know how—a promise to myself, as well as to you.