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Summer arrives on Saturday, so say the calendar keepers. (Although the idea of a season having an official “opening day” seems rather absurd, doesn’t it?) I’m not waiting, I’m ready to celebrate the sensuousness of this warm swing through the solar system NOW.

This stanza is from another beguiling Fleur Adcock poem called Prelude, and the image is from my trip to Tasmania last year. Both bring me into a radiant celebration of the body, the earth, the comingling of life. Roll into it.

Is it the long dry grass that is so erotic,
waving about us with hair-fine fronds of straw,
with feathery flourishes of seed, inviting us
to cling together, fall, roll into it
blind and gasping, smothered by stalks and hair,
pollen and each other’s tongues on our hot faces?
Then imagine if the summer rain were to come,
heavy drops hissing through the warm air,
a sluice on our wet bodies, plastering us
with strands of delicious grass; a hum in our ears.


Nancy Spero, currently on view at the MOMA in New York

Coming

is the body’s way
of weeping, after a series
of shocks is suffered, after the thrust
of things, the gist of things, becomes
apparent: the bolt is felt completely
swollen in vicinity to wrench,
the skid is clearly headed
toward an all-out insult, and the senses
one by one abandon all their stations—
into smaller hours and thinner
minutes, seconds
split—til POW—
you had it, had it coming, and it heaved, whose participle
wasn’t heaven.
That
Was that.
And when you got

some senses back,
you asked yourself, is this
a dignified being’s way
of being born? What
a thought
somebody had! (or some no-body)

out of the breathless blue, making us
double up like this, half gifted and
half robbed. ‘Rise up to me,’ the spirit

laughed. ‘I’m
coming, I’m coming,’
the body sobbed.

–Heather McHugh

Heather McHugh, born in California and raised in rural Virginia, studied with Robert Lowell during the time he taught poetry at Harvard.

About her work she has said, “I write because I want to find out what was bothering me . . . I’m not sure what it is that wants to be said, but I’m there to be its scribe…Almost always I’ve seen some pattern. Then comes a rocking and a humming. I find language to document that play of patterns in the world.”

(I especially like the part, “then comes a rocking and a humming.” Ah, yeah…!)

For two months now I’ve been digging in the field of grief and loss with nothing but a spoon. So when my husband David and two other friends commented this weekend on how “intense” (code word for a variety of dark and heavy descriptors) my recent postings here have been, I got the message. Time to put down the spoon and lighten up.

While I may have been a lonely but determined sifter of sorrow’s soil, it isn’t the only story line for my life right now. Here’s an excellent new theme I can share: I went to my studio today for the first time in weeks. Key in hand, the door opened easily. Up the stairs, into the familiar. And within minutes I felt at home again. The barrier that has kept me away, as visceral as the invisible fence collar that keeps a dog from leaving its yard, has lifted. Even the smell of a skunk’s passing through several weeks ago has nearly evaporated. Something significant was reclaimed for me today.

And here’s another light-filled narrative from my life at the present moment: When creativity seeks only silence, that energy gets reapportioned. My life force, redirected during this fallow period, has increased its allotment to two primary recipients: poetry and sexuality. With silence leaving my soul in a state of wordlessness, poetry has been my voice for insight and wisdom; and the body, bless it, has offered itself as my primal gesture of authentic expression.

How fitting that the great Sharon Olds can bring them together so powerfully:

Ecstasy

As we made love for the third day,
cloudy and dark, as we did not stop
but went into it and into it and
did not hesitate and did not hold back
we rose through the air,
until we were up above
the timber line. The lake lay
icy and silver, the surface shirred,
reflecting nothing. The black rocks
lifted around it into the grainy
sepia air, the patches of snow
brilliant white, and even though we
did not know where we were, we could not
speak the language, we could hardly see, we
did not stop, rising with the black
rocks to the black hills, the black
mountains rising from the hills. Resting
on the crest of the mountains, one huge
cloud with scalloped edges of blazing
evening light, we did not turn back,
we stayed with it, even though we were
far beyond what we knew, we rose
into the grain of the cloud, even though we were
frightened, the air hollow, even though
nothing grew there, even though it is a
place from which no one has ever come back.

It’s probably a good thing my kids don’t read my blog. They really don’t ever want to hear about any of this from either of their parental units…

My friend D at Joe Felso: Ruminations calls it a “find”: Coming across a blog quite by surprise that speaks to you. My most recent online discovery is lies like truth by Chloe Veltman, a writer and musician.

Here’s her excellent blog credo:

These days, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between fact and fantasy. As Alan Bennett’s doollally headmaster in “Forty Years On” astutely puts it, “What is truth and what is fable? Where is Ruth and where is Mabel?” It is one of the main tasks of this blog to celebrate the confusion through thinking about art and perhaps, on occasion, attempt to unpick the knot.

In the epitaph to a collection of writings by Harold Clurman, the great theatre director and critic quotes Picasso: “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth,” and Macbeth, “I … begin to doubt the equivocation of the fiend that lies like truth.” What I love about art is its way of messing with the truth — of telling us what’s really going on in the world through the medium of fiction. Call it the Matrix Effect or what you will, it’s a powerful sentiment.

One of her most recent posts draws parallels between the physical symptoms of indigestion and mental indigestion, both potential causes for insomnia. I am a periodic sufferer of insomnia, so I’m paying attention to her prescriptions:

Even if a person maintains a healthy diet and his physical digestion is in good order, he can keep himself up all night with his brain chewing endlessly over the previous day’s activities, cogitating about what lies ahead or attempting to make sense of how the world works. This is mental indigestion. The cogs whirr and it’s impossible to push the off button and sleep.

Perhaps the same thinking applies to emotional and intellectual indigestion. To avoid “chewing” thoughts and feelings over in the middle of the night, a person might try being less busy (“eating less,”) taking more time over their activities throughout the day (“eating more slowly”) and/or avoiding going to bed in an over-stimulated state by chilling out with a glass of wine and a trashy novel, having a bath or playing with the cat (“not eating for several hours before bed.”)

Now needed: A how-to on increasing the cinematic and special effects of the nightly dream show.

Here’s a midwinter diversion for you. From Slow Muse friend and frequent commenter, Elatia Harris:

3 Quarks Daily is known as one of the blogosphere’s more cerebral haunts, and it occurred to me that habitues of 3QDistan might know a great deal about being broken-hearted by a poem, a song, a building, or most of all an idea. People are okay, too — but are they less interesting and compelling? I’m asking you. I was inspired in this challenge by the Museum of Broken Relationships, a traveling repository of love’s artifacts now in Skopje, Macedonia. The MBR received lots of media attention last fall, but passed us by on 3QD — I hope to remedy that. For some visual inspiration to take the challenge, here’s the link.

3 Quarks Daily

I am compelled by the idea that the enormous cultural thrust usually associated with romantic love has its equivalencies in other domains. I can openly confess to thinking of something other than another person when I hear a love song. For me the object is more typically a particular landscape or the longing for that altered state that happens in a creative fervor. Or of course the total body ecstasy of being with a painting or a building that lands right at the center of me. Maybe true for you as well? (Send your votes to Elatia at elatiaharris AT gmail DOT com.)

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

–Mary Oliver

For the last six days I have been conversing with death’s agents, the ones milling outside that cottage of darkness that could soon belong to my mother. She’s still with us, but how much of her and for how long is indeterminate. When she does go, she won’t be sighing, she won’t be frightened, she won’t be full of argument. She may, in her own way, be showing all of us how it’s done.

After seeing yesterday’s posting of the Eastern Redbud in full rapture, my friend Sally Reed reminded me of this exquisite and sensual poem by Neruda:

Every Day You Play

Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.

The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.

You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.

Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.

How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the gray light unwind in turning fans.

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

Pablo Neruda

The holiday crush of visitors at the Met Museum was daunting, so we took refuge in the antiquities. What kept catching our eye was bodies–the timeless and fascinating seduction of the human form, ubiquitiously present in the expression of art from the very beginning. Thank you Bryce Aragon for your companionionship on this Met meander.

jasperlips
An Egyptian face fragment of jasper, hauntingly disembodied.

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asiandancer

Stone? The undulations of flesh suggest otherwise.
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cyclad

Early Cycladic. This is fecundity and roundness in flagranti.