STARTING WITH I AM: DE DAH! –YOUR NEXT LINE IS THE BEGINNING OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE

This is the story of how we begin to remember . . . These are the days of miracle and wonder (Paul Simon):

MAKE IT NEW (Ezra Pound): Do we make endings only to have beginnings? Are we like a poem, earth with a new morning every day? Is the New Year a first line of our lives’ next stanza?

 Our show today is on how we human beings totally make up endings like December 31, as the end of the year, just so we can have new beginnings, because we love beginnings, the fresh start, the new day, turning over a new leaf–we’re a poem, each of us, with a beginning that comes out of silence, what e.e. Cummings calls the no of all nothing, and suddenly, a brave word breaking forth from the seemingly unformed place of no meaning: from space, a line, a birth of the self, a yes, once again, a bold and valiant voice, cry of being, I am here, this affirmation,  I-AM—. . . bic:

think that I shall never see a poem  lovely as a tree

wandered lonely as a cloud across miles and miles of daffodils

I STARted EARly TOOK my Dog and VISited the SEA

When consider how my light is spent

That time of year thou mayst in me behold

i thank You God for most this amazing

Whether it’s Joyce Kilmer’s Trees, Wordsworth, Milton, Dickinson, Shakespeare, e.e. Cummings, we begin with iambic pentameter, de da de da de da de da de da! It’s the rocking of the cradle, the mind’s lullaby, back and forth, ebb and flow, the heart’s throb, and so here we are, it’s 2013, new numbers, hurtling forward, 2012 is has been, over, done with, been there, closed: ENDED. And we begin again. We are following Ezra Pound’s advice, Make it new, and that is pretty smart, because it was following his advice that helped a Thomas Eliot become T.S. Eliot. In our show today we’ll hear how poets are conscious about the interplay between a consciousness of endings and beginnings as an inextricable nexus of creativity where the meanings lie . . .

so we make it up, make it new, right in the middle of cold and dark and what looks shut down, so that we have a chance to start ourselves with new panache, new jaunt, our stories, all over again, like the first brave line of a poem, the first line of a new quatrain, if our lives are a sonnet, and, aren’t they? John Updike, Helen Hunt Jackson, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Jennifer K. Sweeney, and William Cullen Bryant get us started on January (the ancient time of no-time at all), and then we’re going to hear inspiring thoughts by poets on how to go forward for a new day, a new morning in our lives . . .

Poetry can make a beginning, an aesthetic way to go forward with a new spirit! So we can make resolutions!

Koans, Rumi, Hafiz, Pablo Neruda, Wendell Berry, Derek Walcott, David Wagoner, Native American Elders, Ancient Celtic wisdom, Mary Oliver, Lao Tzu, Nelson Mandela/Marianne Williamson, Rilke, Tagore, Einstein, David Whyte, Thoreau, Alison Luterman, Judyth Hill, Hakusal, William Stafford, Plotinus, and more . . .

 

From the show: Blog/Pacific Grove Poet in Residence:

Continued from my brown paper journal, wet at the bottom from my shorts when I went into the pool, writing on a chaise lounge. Not my M.O. but a way to see the sky—and realize how to see the sky is perhaps what we are supposed to do, how we always have read the Universe. Now it is afternoon, I have driven home, walked up to Grove Market for a tomato, split pea soup, two cans of tuna, and to the bakery for sesame bread and a macaroon for Christer, and made tuna salad and walked three minutes each way to the bench by the Swan Boat, and thought more about what I was writing this morning and my community of leaders writing in journals and making To Do lists from New Years Resolutions and I resumed my journal on this computer, not yet getting back to Work:

 

I don’t know you, who sweep your porch, and you, who paint your fence that bright white,

And you who carry the pitcher of water to your rose bush, so that it blooms by the sidewalk, and provides a whiff of sweetness as one walks. . .

acts of people we don’t know who give our civic lives a style and us a grateful sense of presence in our world . . . was it their resolution to do good? Who knows where our resolutions lead?

 

So I am thinking of the word whiff, and scent, and sniff, and how to capture what it is one feels walking, with unexpected news of something clean and cared for and beautiful in this world . . .

 

You, of these gestures, do you know how someone is thinking of you, when all is said and done, in the consciousness of sorrow, and loss, of bad manners and bad luck, of what is frightful and tedious and fraught and disturbing (we see the faces of drivers, we see the faces when no one’s looking, how it is, and then we can understand).

Okay, I am not saying there’s a certain heaven, but you can see how in the scheme of things what you did, we’re not talking about plunging in to save a drowning swimmer, giving to charity, adopting an abused dog or horse, it’s the little thing you did, letting neighborhood kids swim, a dollar for the oranges at the checkout counter, twenty dollars for the left luggage of a disgraced and distressed family, you gave what you had, when it mattered a lot, and it was majesty you made, something important in the mind of someone looking back and realizing that all is not lost with the world, and you never know, do you, just when the Universe will reveal itself to you as something generous and good, some whiff of passing grace.

 

This is what I wrote this morning in my brown paper journal by the pool, after going into the pool, thinking first of the Merced, longing to be in the Merced, missing the Merced, my time to be there, and then at the sparkling blue, and a little time I can take just now, this hour, no one waiting for me, I can look down, feel buoyant, peer through water and its waviness of blue and transparent shiny lines, and remembering just this kind of pleasure in the Loma Alta Street backyard of the Gellars, those afternoons they invited us over, how we would whoop with joy at the phone call, it would be two in the afternoon, one hundred degrees: the day was redeemed, it was glorious, and Ruth Gellar didn’t know or probably even like us, we were noisy splashing kids and she had to make lemonade and sit with mom and who knows, sweep the tiles, but if she knew then, if she could know now, how someone remembers her name, is thinking of her and those moments, over fifty years ago, defining the pleasure of a summer day, the role she played in our lives—and then I was moved to think of all the ways someone without realizing how much it meant, and would mean all these years later, more than fifty years later, took trouble on someone’s behalf, was generous. It is a kind of wealth we all have without realizing what we have to give—gifts so powerful that years later they shine and grow in momentousness.

 

How could this be a resolution? This, now, is what I wrote: I am thinking of a title from Mary Oliver, A Summer Day, the last line of her poem: Now Tell Me What You Plan To Do With Your One Wild and Precious Life—how do we, do we, plan for Grace? Is there an invisible To Do list and New Years’ Resolution with which we operate?

I am thinking of Ray and Jim, Audrea and Nicole, Natalie and Jeanne, Bill and Hadassah, on paths of goodness. A poem begins to emerge:

 

If you have a swimming pool and it is hot outside,

And there is a family down the street,

With three kids, a brown skinny boy who frowns,

A pale plump girl, her little sister who scowls,

Of course you’re busy, you are, and yet

Invite them over for a swim on a hot afternoon.

 

If you are standing in line at the store

And the person paying in front of you is short a dollar

And says, if we take off the oranges?

You have no money to spare, things are tight, of course

They are, there are so many demands on you,

Give them the money to complete their purchase.

 

If you see a stranger panting up the steps of your village,

Returning from the ruins,

You have no time of course and people are suspicious,

Even if you don’t speak their language,

Give them a glass of lemonade.

 

If you see a family huddled, trying to figure out

How to retrieve their luggage when they do not have money to pay,

And you know it is their fault, of course it is, poor planning,

Bad luck that can be avoided, step up and offer them twenty dollars

You know you will never see again.

 

You won’t know this, ever.

But a lady reviewing her life, on a summer day,

A life of over sixty years, years and years—

Of happenings, so much to remember, what makes a life,

Will on a hot day one day remember her childhood,

A day of miraculous reprieve, a burst of news, completely unexpected

And fervently hoped for, a swim in their neighbor’s pool,

The blue sparkle of water, blinding splash, shattered sun, sparkle of splash,

Shattered shout, sparkle of shouts, shattered joy:

Her sense of blessed moment is from what you did, with what you had.

 

Somewhere the mother of the family you rescued at the airport,

Thinks of humanity and remembers your act,

Anonymous stranger, your redeeming act, and thinks sometimes there is kindness,

And life works out.

 

A man forgives our race, knowing at one point someone cared for him,

Not knowing him, and it was not important, what he almost could not buy,

Because he was not careful enough, or did not plan.

 

Sometime a woman will lie, panting, and no one can do anything for her;

But in her mind, someone comes up and offers her a glass of lemonade,

Not just water, but a fresh fruit, squeezed, pressed, sweetened, and cold—

Someone sees someone, and thinks to do this thing: and the memory

Cooling her is your arm holding out the glass, at the top of the stairs.

 

The gestures not on anyone’s To Do list for New Years’ Resolutions, that no one

Taught you to do—the wealth that you have, that no one

Knows and is not on your bank statement, and it will not help you get a loan,

The uncounted sweetness of you—

 

You are the source of a blessed life,

You are the agent of the Universe,

You are a vision of angel, a way people forgive

And know from this glimpse into the divine,

This whiff of—I’m not saying there’s heaven.

This is in you to do, and you, at the end of the day,

Are a new beginning, in what is remembered.

 

I’m not saying you will be glad if you do these things,

You may not or you may not think twice, and go about your day.

But someday someone will think of you as evidence of an infinite world.

 

And you, the resolutions alive in you,

who sweep your porch, and you, who paint your fence bright white,

And you who carry the pitcher of water to your rose bush, by the sidewalk,

And provide a whiff of sweetness as one walks, and slows down,

Stressed thoughts startled by interrupting rose.

c Barbara Mossberg 2013

So I am thinking of the word whiff, and scent, and sniff, and how to capture what it is one feels walking, with unexpected news of something clean and cared for and beautiful in this world . . .

 

Who knows where your resolution ends and someone’s hope begins, a new day, a new way? Poetry Slow Down, you have been on my mind, a kind of good news of kindness aloft and core to this world. Thank you for sending your New Years messages and greetings. On this beginning of a New Year, mounting the threshold of going forward, I am reminded of how we create structures in our lives like in a poem, with beginnings and ends. We make ends to make amends, we make ends because we want to make new beginnings, and structure our time and lives like stanzas, always a chance for a new fresh start, like our sun each day. I suppose this is why our earth turns. How ingenious of the Universe, a whole system designed for new days and starts . . . As I look forward to this new year, I think of the lessons that carry me forward, and the first one is the understanding of how it is OUR earth, our community, our time here, that being in each other’s presence on this journey has taught me. A community alive with poetry is a way of civic grace, of kindness, listening to poets’ spiritual devotion and practice. And so I resolve in this new year to read what’s here, what’s made anew, trees, and poetry, and music and dance, and mountains, and love, as never ending, and always beginning . . . but first we have to conceive an interruption, a de dah of breathing in and out, a heartbeat-like way of ending and beginning, in perpetual rhythm, ending and beginning, and we’ll hear T.S. Eliot in Four Quartets meditate on how our beginnings are in our seeming ends . . . .

So hear hear for advice for resolutions and new resolve: The Koan of Wu Men (“This is the best season of your life”; Buddha (“To the mind that is still the whole universe surrenders”); Rumi (“Keep looking at the bandaged place./ That’s where the Light enters you;”

“Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,

here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.

 

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.

If it were always fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed.

 

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding.

the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated

as bird wings.

 

And we conclude with Tennyson:

Ring the bells that can still ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in. And Rumi: Keep looking at the bandaged place. That’s where the Light enters you –That’s the poet’s advice for making it new, our fresh start for a new line in our life as poem, a thing created, conceived, art! We crack time, into moments and minutes and hours and days and weeks and months and years, and between the end of the year and the New Year, is a crack of possibility, where everything is possible: so I’m thinking of our reading of The Great Gatsby’s ending, and the ending of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.

“In my end is my beginning: . . . so Poetry Slow Down, we’re ending toDAY, only to begin a new quatrain, a new possibility, as we end (not!) with Emily Dickinson’s “I dwell in Possibility.”

For Occupation – This –

The spreading wide my narrow Hands

To gather Paradise –

That’s the poet’s devotion, practice, resolution: gathering Paradise, through the cracks in time, the endings and beginnings that let in the light, Possibility, and on that note, we will begin again next week! Thank you for listening, for slowing down with KRXA 540AM, for poets’ ideas about new years resolutions, and thank you for writing me, on our Facebook page, The Poetry Slow Down, or right here! Or at bmossberg@csumb.edu. I am Professor Barbara Mossberg! Go well, happy new year, and top of the morning to you . . . always. . . .deDAH

© Barbara Mossberg 2013

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *