Yes, my Christmas tree is still up. Yesterday, I finished reading The Gift, by Lewis Hyde, but, even after Three Kings Day, I am still recounting my gifts, with joy and gratitude: I wrote about the yoga mat here, a gift from my husband, the The Poet Tarot here at EIL, a gift from my son, and today I will riff a bit on gifts from my daughter, who gave me a practical pink hair dryer (er, to replace the one she took to college) and a mix tape of songs she knew I would like,* plus Regina Spektor, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, which contains the fantastic song, "Firewood," a song that arrested me in the kitchen just now. I stood there, listening, rapt, turned to wood. (Wow, that's a really long sentence.) Lyrics here.
*My daughter knew I would like the songs because whenever her music is on in the car, I ask, "Who's singing that?" It's often Zee Avi or Ingrid Michaelson. Interestingly, the first song on the tape was one she didn't know I'd know. "I know this song!" I said. "What?!" "It's from Grease," I said, always delighted to reveal the musicals in their lives to my family members who claim to hate musicals but who love The Simpsons, which is always spoofing musicals by doing musicals. The song was "You're the One that I Love," sung in sweet slow motion by Angus & Julia Stone. Wikipedia tells me Regina Spektor now has the gift of a child.
In The Gift, Lewis Hyde tells of Ezra Pound being turned into a tree in a poem, "The Tree," that begins, "I stood still and was a tree amid the wood...." Reading about Pound reminded me of a similar thing happening to me in college, not in a wood but in a window. I stood transfixed, immobile, and turned into a golden tree, the one shining in the sun on the campus quad that fall, and, likewise, wrote a poem about it. I stood just as still listening to "Firewood" in my kitchen this morning. It contains the repeated line, "The piano is not firewood yet." Last night, as on other nights, I tried to play the piano, and sing, and broke down into tears.
"Some day you'll wake up and feel a great pain," sings Regina, "and miss every toy you ever owned." My husband, who left most of his toys behind in Cuba, speaks of a similar feeling. "You'll want to go back, you'll wish you were small," sings Regina. Now that the relationship with Cuba has begun to change, my husband may be able to go back!
"You'll take the clock off of your wall," sings Regina, "and you'll wish it was lying." I don't know about that, but I do know it corresponds to the beautiful image of a backward clock from a film by Eduardo Yagüe made to one of my Claudel poems, “Broken Figure.” You can see it here, at The Poetry Storehouse, or here, at Moving Poems, where it is accompanied by a companion film, “Figura Rota,” made for the Spanish translation of the poem, also by Yagüe. Many thanks to Eduardo, to Nic Sebastian at The Poetry Storehouse, and to Dave Bonta at Moving Poems. All of this is a gift!
Hyde quotes Pound’s speculation on the origin of myth: “The first myths arose when a man walked sheer into ‘nonsense,’ that is to say, when some very vivid and undeniable adventure befell him, and he told someone else who called him a liar. Thereupon, after bitter experience, perceiving that no one could understand what he meant when he said that he ‘turned into a tree,’ he made a myth—a work of art, that is,—an impersonal or objective story woven out of his own emotion, as the nearest equation that he was capable of putting into words.”
“Love what you have and you’ll have more love,” sings Regina Spektor. I think that’s the underlying message of The Gift, too, and of all gifts. “Everyone knows you’re going to love, though there’s still no cure for crying.” Thanks, Regina. Thanks, my sweet daughter! For the songs and these beautiful images! And the pink hair dryer!