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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Poetry Girl Sunday #3

Heavy surf from the nor'easter makes its way up the beach access steps late in the afternoon in Sandbridge, Nov. 12, 2009. (L. Todd Spencer|The Virginian-Pilot)

O it has been a week--yesterday's paper screamed "NOR'BEASTER", today it bleats "It's Intense".  As I write this morning, it is sunny ...the not-proverbial "calm after the storm".  My little southeastern corner of Virginia has been battered by a sneak-attack Nor'easter now dubbed by our dazed commentators as The November Nor'easter.  "...Of ALL Time!" it seems like they want to add but they don't in case it comes off as too dramatic.  Even though it was dramatic.

I drove north to Washington D.C. in the midst of it.  A three to four hour drive. 

This part of Virginia is home to the cities/towns of Chesapeake/Virginia Beach/Norfolk/Portsmouth/Suffolk--all crowded together into an area we commonly refer to as "Tidewater" or "Hampton Roads".  Some of us know the origins of these two toponyms, most of us don't.  In fact ever since I've lived here for the past twenty-five years, a slow-burning controversy that flares up now & then simmers about what to call this place.

The point is that this part of Virginia was getting clobbered by the storm and, as life goes, something else was going on too--my aunt was being laid to rest in Washington D.C.  Despite the storm, I had to get myself and Thing 2 up there.  So we went.  We drove on through slanting rain and wind gusts up to 60 mph.  There was debris flying through the air, littering the road, battering my poor, but stalwart Honda Odyssey.  Mostly by pure luck, partly by good reflexes I narrowly missed a large tree that suddenly appeared out of the chaos, lying across the interstate.

Odyssey n., pl. -seys 1. A long adventurous voyage or trip. 2. An intellectual or spiritual quest. [After the ODYSSEY.]

How appropriate.

I had relatives flying and driving to DC for Meme's service and my mom & dad drove the same path I did from Williamsburg, Virginia (an hour NW of Tidewater).  But it was that hour that made all the difference.  The whole eastern seaboard had rain and wind but it was Tidewater that got the Nor'easter's particular wrath and I had to get out of Tidewater.  Hence they all looked at me rather flabbergasted when I arrived, appearing wide-eyed and announcing that my "odyssey" had been "brutal".  (I didn't really use the word "odyssey" but I did use the word "brutal")  Even Thing 2 looked at me askance because despite the buffeting rage of that first hour, he had slept through most of it.

I realized I had to put my white-knuckled, heart-hammering trip behind me and get down to the business of grieving for my dear aunt, and comforting, and being comforted by, dear relatives and friends.  It may in fact happen in the brain but this shift of emotions feels like it happens in the heart.  It is the heart that is confused and it is the brain telling the heart to get on with it.  It is now.  And now I find myself in the quiet bowels of an appropriately somber administrative building at Arlington National Cemetery refereeing this internal wrestling match as we gather and prepare to say good-bye to a life that has been a part of our lives.

It occurs to me that whether we care to admit it or not, life is dramatic and can be likened certainly to a long, adventurous voyage or trip that is certainly an intellectual, spiritual quest.

And my heart is saying, "Back off brain!  Leave me alone and let me feel for a little while".  Just let me feel it all ....

The Lives Of The Heart

Are ligneous, muscular, chemical.
Wear birch-colored feathers,
green tunnels of horse-tail reed.
Wear calcified spirals, Fibonaccian spheres.
Are edible; are glassy; are clay; blue schist.
Can be burned as tallow, as coal,
can be skinned for garnets, for shoes.
Cast shadows or light;
shuffle; snort; cry out in passion.
Are salt, are bitter,
tear sweet grass with their teeth.
Step silently into blue needle-fall at dawn.
Thrash in the net until hit.
Rise up as cities, as serpentined magma, as maples,
hiss lava-red into the sea.
Leave the strange kiss of their bodies
in Burgess Shale.  Can be found, can be lost,
can be carried, broken, sung.
Lie dormant until they are opened by ice,
by drought.  Go blind in the service of lace.
Are starving, are sated, indifferent, curious, mad.
Are stamped out in plastic, in tin.
Are stubborn, are careful, are slipshod,
are strung on the blue backs of flies
on the black backs of cows.
Wander the vacant whale-roads, the white thickets
heavy with slaughter.
Wander the fragrant carpets of alpine flowers.
Not one is not held in the arms of the rest, to blossom.
Not one is not given to ecstasy's lions.
Not one does not grieve.
Each of them opens and closes, closes and opens
the heavy gate--violent, serene, consenting, suffering it all.
                                                                 --Jane Hirshfield


Karen said...

What an ordeal! I'm sure your aunt appreciated the harrowing journey you undertook to attend her services. Maybe she was watching out for you.

And that is a beautiful poem. I've already read through it twice. Thank you for sharing!

Barbara said...

Thought about you guys all day on Friday. Hope the rain held off at Arlington until you could safely finish the ceremony. Meme was a special as they come and she'll be sorely missed.

Andi said...

Beautiful poem, hope the ride home was a little calmer.

Laurie said...

Thanks you guys ...

Karen, such a cool idea that Meme was watching out for us. I hadn't thought of that!

Barbara, the rain did hold off nicely. Thanks for nice thoughts too about Meme.

Andi, thanks! The ride home was fabulous, like night & day.

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