Thou mak’st me hot, O swain of mine, afire with passion, sure,
and art my furnace, blazing beau, so flaming your allure;
What is it getteth in my groove that thou hast, O my heart?
How heat I up, so quickly broiled, as roasting from the start?
Mayhap, thou sneaky Devil, thou hast dropped affection’s bomb
When I misjudged it literal and went to Match.com!
The Cuddlesome Kraken
You think that I’m all hands, my love,
Controlling, holding tightly so?
Don’t wriggle, struggle, push and shove;
I love you, darling, s’truth I do,
So let’s just cut right to the chase—
Let me wrap all my arms ’round you—
The sweetest sound the human ear has heard
Was not a waterfall or splashing brook
To thirsty thoughts; nor thirsty mind, a book
Read out; nor singer’s voice, nor whistling bird
In spring’s cool song; it wasn’t kittens’ purr
Or baby’s comfortably cooing charms
When resting safely in his mother’s arms
—Though it might then seem wildly sweet to her—
It wasn’t the “I love you” of romance,
Nor was the sweetest sound of clinking gold,
—Though to its owner, that cannot grow old—
But rather, barring mystic happenstance,
The miracle of sound most truly sweet
Was Mama’s voice announcing, “Come and eat!”
You know that I love the Fall season, even though it’s very late and short here in Texas. Perhaps it benefits from my love of seasonal change in general, but I think the romantic leanings that come in autumn, that sense of impending death softened by the comforts with which we pad ourselves and by the death-defying renewal of the beginning of school and art seasons, have their own peculiar attractions. And of course, there is the bounty of foods that are best appreciated as we slide from the fall equinox to the winter.The World in Autumn
Thin branches caging up the sun
In willow-wavy lacelike hands,
All skeletons and ampersands,
Hold clouds together in the one
Unreadable yet literate
Equation of the interstices
Whose elated season this is,
Crisp and quite deliberate
In tracing every moment in it,
Hour, year, and state of mind
Among the bones of humankind,
As though these things were infinite.
One of the delights I most admire in this season is earthy flavors. An abundance of root vegetables and mushrooms signals time for soups, stews and sauces whose savory riches warm body and soul and recall me to the embrace of home and childhood in many ways. A simple creamy soup loaded with mushrooms is hard to beat for succor on a grey and blustery day. A bouquet of cauliflower roasted with nothing more than a quantity of butter and salt and pepper until just-right is heavenly; adding sage leaves to the butter and a handful of shredded Reggiano to the top of the cauliflower just when they’ll have time to crisp and brown lightly moves the easy dish to a higher floor in the heavenly skyscraper.Roasted vegetables of any kind are especially welcome in the cooler seasons, and so easy to toss together with a little olive oil or butter in the oven while everything else is being prepared for the table that it’s almost a crime not to put them in the oven. Throw a chopped lemon in to roast with them and they are sauced in their own juices. Put the remains (if any) the next day into a bowl with a cup of hot homemade broth and a poached or soft-cooked egg or two, add cooked rice or noodles if you like, and, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, (or bi-bim-bap!), you have a bowl full of nutritious, delicious, and not at all ambitious goodness right in your own little corner of this magical autumn season.
To capture the kind of innocence that little ones have would be a scientific coup beyond what even our best magicians could hope to conjure. How is it that such jaded minds and dedicated tragedians as adults can be made from the raw childhood materials of clear-eyed honesty and untouched truth and light? As an artist and writer, even simply as a grownup who believes that honesty and reality have far more forms than the dull quotidian ones in which we grownups generally clothe them to fit our fusty adult needs for blandness to feel safe, I search the boundaries between worlds endlessly in hope.
Sometimes I wonder if I have been cheating when I don’t follow precisely that stern old caveat that warns me to always Write about What You Know—that I should stay fixed in the firmament of my own particular universe, my peculiar range and realm of reality. Of course, I know that no beautiful fantasy and very little romance would ever get written by anyone if this rule were strictly adhered to in every way; what’s more, I remind myself as I write that every word I put down on the page is true, just not always for me and my own experience: perhaps it’s something I’ve known of believed or felt, translated into another person’s events, and sometimes it is perhaps best described as true of (or for) another person who herself or himself is not known on this modest three-dimensional earthly and human plane. Anyway, I am reassured that I bend the Rule a little but I never wholly break it; I tend to wander further from the truth only when I must–in order to make the truth of the matter most apparent.
It’s my parents’ wedding anniversary. When they got married 57 years ago, I can only assume that they hadn’t the remotest idea of where they would be in their lives today, let alone all of what would have transpired between then and now. For the most part, I think it’s a tremendous blessing that we don’t know what lies ahead, because the bad parts would probably terrify any sane person out of moving forward, and the good ones would lose some of their savor for having been predictable. But however innocently ignorant my parents may have been in youth, they had the good sense to marry for love.
The real kind, of course, not just that thrilling inner swell that is romantic infatuation. That stuff is fantastic and helps fuel and sustain the deeper sort, but without the kind of love that abides when life’s realities are too hard at the moment, when we’re too tired or busy or distracted or cranky to skip through shimmering meadows of happiness with kindness in our souls and sugar cookies in our lunch boxes, infatuation is instantly deflated. I’m pretty certain that my parents had an inkling of this from very early, but it’s something I saw them cultivate and tend like flowerbeds throughout the years. Their modus operandi has generally been one of keeping the mechanics of the operation to themselves, not being the sort to air their disagreements in front of others or to be so publicly rampant in their amours that their companions would fall into diabetic comas in their company, but the depth and intensity of commitment and actual friendship have always been in evidence. The passing anniversaries merely mark further milestones that demonstrate how those gifts have continued to nurture real love. Trials and tribulations and happier adventures all along the way inevitably change the shape and character of such love and its multifarious accoutrements, but the signposts stand firm and the blooms of beauty and kindness never fade, no matter how the path meanders in the garden and no matter where the beds need to relocate or be retrenched from time to time.
You won’t be surprised, then, that I think they deserve bouquets of fond recognition on this day, even if they’re only virtual bouquets; they’re all from my garden, which I learned from my parents to tend, and that I hope when I grow up I can be as constant in my love and affection as Mom and Dad are. Let love continue to bloom.
I love a good ruin. While I understand the urgency of need for shelter among the homeless of the world and I generally don’t condone waste, the beauty of a derelict and decaying building speaks to me of history, mystery and longing. The reclamation of the ruin by nature, so astoundingly quick in geological terms, appears in the lifetime of a human to be perversely slow, creeping up and catching observers unawares. Deferred maintenance–a term that has taken on a modern oxymoronic twist I despise, given that such deferral is really deference to eventual wrack and ruin of a very irresponsible sort–becomes dire in what seems to have been the length of the watchman’s single circuit, and when we come back to the front door of the property we thought we’d only just circumambulated, it’s already hanging by one rusty hinge.
The character in and inherent fairytales posed by ancient ruins are naturally enhanced and perhaps exaggerated by their superior age, so a once-fine castle or cathedral, stone cottage or pillared temple has an advantage in terms of potential drama. But I am equally fond of a tumble-down shed or an industrial derelict, for nothing in its skeletal state lacks the piquant possibility of backstory as the mind attempts to re-flesh it with purpose and activity. Given half a chance, I might attempt to revive the corpse in the way that I went with cousins and undertook the rehabilitation of an abandoned cabin near our grandpa’s when we were young, because the romance of emptiness is that it’s always seemingly waiting for something special to happen. On the other hand, spending time in a ruin only to contemplate what did or might happen there can be just as alluring.
In this regard, I suppose I think of ruins as endlessly optimistic, though it may seem quite contradictory: the sense of their potential, whether for new life or for telling their stories of what has gone before, tends to outweigh the sense of sorrow that is in their current state of dishevelment and disrepute.
I wonder, then, how I so often forget to see imperfect looking people in the same way.