Monday, August 16, 2021

Only As the Day is Long

Only As the Day is Long, by Dorianne Laux (Norton, 2019), is a big book. It had a bookmark* in it, so it's part new read, part re-read, and I've read many of these poems earlier, too; she's a poet I've admired for a long time. The bookmark was at "The Orgasms of Organisms," about insects mating, and as I read it, cicadas were loud around, my husband reading in a hammock hung from our sweetgum tree and half-dismantled swingset-fort contraption left by the previous owners of our house. 

We are living a long, perfect summer day together. I've been reading and weeding. He's got the electric mower charged and parked out here as if he's going to mow. It's still Sunday...but I won't finish this book till Monday, as I can read "only as the day is long" and then no more.

*a Jesse White, Secretary of State, Illinois Center for the book bookmark!

How I love "Savages," about four boys reading poetry on the floor of a bookstore. "Democracy" gives me her political insight: "You can feel it now: why people become Republicans," but she isn't one, evidently. There are poems about the homeless, the poor, the troubled and disadvantaged, the hard-working class. Waitresses, nurses.

There are poems about trees. "Cello" is also about love, music, transformation...and about "a dead tree...fall[ing] into the arms / of a living tree," coupled then forever. Poems about birds, starling, raven, crow. About men, beloved, remembered, soldiers, musicians, Mick Jagger, Philip Levine.

I find my coincidence, the phrase "Against the insomnia of August," while reading, awake, in August. I find many a favorite stanza. Here's one, from "Late-Night TV":

     We know nothing about how it all works,
     how we end up in one bed or another,
     speak one language instead of the others,
     what heat draws us to our life's work
     or keeps us from a dream until it's nothing
     but a blister we scratch in our sleep.

Often I say to myself, I am never lonely, or hardly ever, I say today, Blue Monday in the blog, but yesterday afternoon, I was strangely lonely, and called some friends, and turned again to poetry, this book, an open-hearted, yearning, sometimes lonely book, and it helped.

I saved the last section, the new poems, for today, Monday, Sealey Challenge, Day 16. But yesterday I let the long day's shadows fall over me on the weathered wooden glider, softened by an ivy-print comforter (since I can't find any glider cushions at Bed, Bath, and Beyond...and don't really shop anymore, and now this is just like a diary, this reading/writing practice, sorry...), and I rested.

Ah, but the new poems, read early on this Blue Monday, are mother poems, death-of-the-mother poems, beautiful with complicated grief. Piano music poems, for the mother played. With touches of bedroom slippers, a metal collander, Route 66 as the Mother Road. Another favorite stanza:

     There will always be
     silence, no matter
     how long someone
     has wept against
     the side of a house,
     bare forearms pressed
     to the shingles.

And here, in "Letter to My Dead Mother," is a couplet I recognize as similar to something my own mother has told me:

     You told me when you were 72
     You still felt 25 behind your eyes.

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