Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Poetry: Robin Becker

Once more, repeat poet. And it's not July. But I like this poem, and I've been thinking about it a lot, and the last line stands out as one of the few moments of literature by which I have actually felt physically winded. I think I'll post a list of those soon. That would be neat.

Anyway, our dear Ms. Becker.

Robin Becker
Conversations in July

She said three towns away the smell of lavender lives for years
in the workman's shirts, like mushrooms in the trained dog's nose.
I said here and pulled some thyme from the rocks.
We didn't say anything. Bats circled in the olive trees.
She loved the broad boulevards of that city by the sea
and the cream-colored hotels. I said I think my father is dying,
he's turning away from the days of the week, he's afraid to talk,
to give anything away. She said the living bend
over the counter to speak with the butcher, she said pass me the wine,
she said where are the matches, she said go get some rosemary
for dinner, ther eis nothing you can do for him.
I said I want to be faithful.
She said a river splashes at the bottom of the gorge, listen.
We listened. Finally she said I can't imagine living without her.
Then we imagined it: a stone path leads to a stone house,
a whitewashed room with a small fireplace. A cat sleeps on the terrace.
With a wooden spoon she pushed the garlic across the sizzling pan.
She said I still can't imagine it, so I might as well watch
the figs growing fatter on the trees. We identified a few stars.
Shadows fell on the picnic table as the river at the bottom
of the gorge splashed through our lives.
Someone said go get some rosemary for dinner.
Finally the figs were an echo big enough to eat.

She said read to me from the guidebook.
I said, in the eighth century, elephants and tortoises upheld the sky.
Griffins guarded sacred tress. The ass played hte lyre,
the wolf dressed as a monk. As it should be, she said, go on.
In the twelfth century, the husband pruned his vine in February,
in March he blew on two horns, in May he set off
for the wars, in June he gathered fruit, in July he wore a hat
against the sun, he cut his corn with a sickle.
In August he repaired his barrels, in September he trod on his grapes,
in October he beat acorns from an oak,
in November he killed the fatted pig, in December he gathered fuel.
She said don't forget the one-legged, the dog-headed, the headless
with eyes and mouth situated on the breast.
Don't forget the freaks she said, they were created on the fifth day
and are therefore not in defiance of nature. Go on.
I didn't know you were religious, I said.
Watch, she said and became a fish with a horse's head.
How did you do that? I asked. She winked.
She became a peacock.
I said this isn't really happening.
She said you're right, this isn't really happening.


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