A show about memory and the spirit and spirits of what we treasure and hold precious when we slow down, and the role of Muse, of poetry, in bringing life to life. Music is “Memory,” from Cats, Got a Lotta Living To Do, Elvis Presley, I Remember You, Frank Ifield, That One Day, That Summer, Nat King Cole.
Welcome to our radio show, this early November, making the morning last with Producer Mr. Zappa for Magic4Life, radiomonterey.com, with me your grateful host, Professor Barbara Mossberg, and you’re listening live—is that great–you alive, and me, alive—and we’re podcast at barbaramossberg.com, and our theme I think is just this—the fact that we are live, as e.e. cummings says, I who have died am alive again today, and that’s something remarkable, as Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman says, isn’t that remarkable, It’s that time of year, PoetrySlowDown, slowing down going on all around us, getting our attention, as it gets darker longer, and colder, more red and yellow and brown, and we’re wrapping ourselves in our red plaid flannel bathrobes, and wearing our slippers and boots, and as trees jettison leaves, or they volunteer, leap off, people all around the world this past week have been celebrating hallow e’en and the day of the dead, and I was asked to contribute to a ceremony with the Pacific Grove community when I was their poet in residence, and I was with the program but I confess I had some dread, thinking of the dead . . . because it’s true that most of what we know and love in this world and learn is what can be called the dead but on the other hand that is the opposite of what we personally want to be this day, but I promised to write a poem for the occash. And this is what happens, I think, O Poetry Slow Down, when we slow down to write a poem, something mysterious–it writes itself; we step onto this path, and see where it leads . . . so this is what I wrote, beginning with a title, Day of the Dead, and then sat there, and wrote, “on remembering my ancestors,” and just saying that, the poem just took over . . . or maybe more accurately my ancestors did:
Day of the Dead
On remembering my ancestors,
Through the lens of my grief, my missing them,
How did I let them go,
The anguish of seeing them frail, diminished in body,
I could not hear them, they could not hear me,
My missing them in my every day, so much,
The mornings I still want to call.
They interrupt, they don’t like this.
What, darlings, don’t you like, my remembering you?
I don’t want you to think of me as DEAD.
Ah—how would YOU wish to be remembered?
And images parade in a circus of proud elephant moments, life’s sequined ladies
And lions, a red and white striped tent of memory, with peanuts on the ground:
This jolly crew in the morning, at our campsite, my father in his cowboy hat making trailcakes, he called them,
On our Coleman stove, with pears and onions and bananas and bacon, ooohh we say, disgusting, but he’s so pleased with himself, how resourceful, using our supplies, he doesn’t get mad when we shudder with disgust, so ungrateful,
He’s SO pleased, his eyes are happy, green gold as the shining Merced full of trout . . .
and on it goes, bringing me so much joy in the aliveness that is captured in a poem. We hear the role of memory in bringing life to life, T.S. Eliot’s poems that became “Memory” in Cats, Keats’ “Ode to Autumn,” and other flannel red plaid poems considering our fates as trees . . . We hear about being “present” and how presence is a present, a gift of consciousness. We hear about shenanigans and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Pest, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, with notes of e. e. cummings, Shakespeare, and Ovid on transformation, as seen in a pot of boiling water–which is a miracle!
© Barbara Mossberg 2015