Loose and unconstrained as my mind is right now, I didn't manage to create any poetry this Thursday. Still, my thoughts turned to poetry from my everyday and spun me off onto the white university truck on the rain-slicked street outside the cafe window. A woman's voice licked through my ear, into my head, over the heart-pine floor. Her language was not my language--the music dripping in sitars, bells, and cymbals. She was drunk with longing anyway as she sang her desires to me through invisible speakers and I sat listening, sipping the drink I bought from the Persian cafe owner who whistled along with her. He had already proudly told me and another woman entering the cafe in the same moment I was of his ancestral home while sucking down a quick cigarette--no doubt a stall tactic to let him finish his smoke before he served us, chai tea for me--peach bergamot for the stranger who sat on the other side of the room.
So I contemplated poetry in my everyday huddled over the gold filigree, vibrant teal, dark bruise blue paint swirling over my tabletop...handpainted by Brittney, the first sun in four days illuminating her name and the remnants of golden glitter. My notebook looked like a relic on display and I thought, maybe I do too. A woman with willowy limbs and humidity crimped black hair trailing in uneven coils like the table's design down the ribbon of my spine. I could be the everyday poem.
Or, the woman running with her sleek Greyhound and expensive sneakers may be...she hit a puddle and it blasted across her sculpted face, strong jaw, high Slavic cheekbones--and she never broke her stride. I'll bet she'd never spend even a moment dreaming out the window like me. Red, white, and blue banner across the street and an old man who could not seem to climb out of his wife's silver Saturn...probably he once stormed Normandy's shoreline or sweated it out above Germany's gouged streets--fighting in a World War people are forgetting about. One my own grandfather slugged through until waking on morning in Italy to perpetual darkness--stars lighting the edges of his irises--a welcome break from the blindness now claiming his twenty-three year old eyes.
But, the fickle sun was probably the best poem I could find. Rising every day like a fat gold coin--the currency of my Summer--and I ignored it in all of its obvious abundance...just like every other day.
Another thought rose up in the form of a brilliant poet whose "Peeling an Orange" conjures the magic and power of a quiet moment distilled in the spare, essential form of poetry. Virginia Hamilton Adair died in 2004 at the age of 91--having only published her first full book of (critically acclaimed) poetry at 83. The story of Adair is a poetry fragment in and of itself...her father read her the Iliad through her crib bars, she graduated from Radcliffe and became a young writer of note--publishing in the Atlantic and the New Republic. Then, of course, she married--passionately, wildly, happily--to a prominent historian...they had three children and Adair stopped publishing her work, due to having soured with "the gamesmanship of the publishing world". Adair continued to write endless volumes of poetry during this time...teaching as a professor, raising her children, and loving her husband madly until the day he shot himself to death in the upstairs office while she was downstairs, preparing their breakfast. In 1995, a poet friend of hers referred Adair's work to the New Yorker. They immediately resurrected the poetry career of this eighty-two year old dynamo and her subsequent books were considered modern masterpieces. Late in her life, Adair went blind--but kept writing anyway...the following poem is one moment of a day from her collection Ants on the Melon.
Peeling an Orange
Between you and a bowl of oranges I lie nude
Reading The World's Illusion through my tears.
You reach across me hungry for global fruit,
Your bare arm hard, furry, and warm on my belly.
Your fingers pry the skin of a navel orange
Releasing tiny explosions of spicy oil.
You place peeled disks of gold in a bizarre pattern
On my white body. Rearranging, you bend and bite
The disks to release further their eager scent.
I say, "Stop, you're tickling," my eyes still on the page.
Aromas of groves arise. Through green leaves
Glow the lofty snows. Through red lips
Your white teeth close on a translucent segment.
Your face over my face eclipses The World's Illusion.
Pulp and juice pass into my mouth from your mouth.
We laugh against each other's lips. I hold my book
Behind your head, still reading, still weeping a little.
You say, "Read on, I'm just an illusion," rolling
Over upon me soothingly, gently moving,
Smiling greenly through long lashes. And soon
I say, "Don't stop. Don't disillusion me."
Snows melt. The mountain silvers into many a stream.
The oranges are golden worlds in a dark dream.
--Virginia Hamilton Adair, 1919-2004--