October 8, 2008

Lessons Before Sleeping


My ideal indoor temperature is 71 degrees, but I didn't know this about myself until I moved to The Woods. If the temperature dips as low as 68 my teeth start to chatter. Just a quirky thing about me and my ivories. R has allowed this heat extravagance because he's afraid I'll leave him if I shiver too much. Also, he likes to play with the wood pellet stove.
I'm not missing summer nearly as much as I thought I would. The chilly outdoors is alright with me as long as the sun is shining and the house is toasty.
I am, however, missing my books. I didn't have the gumption to give them all away as I'd originally planned so most of them are packed in boxes in the basement. Unfortunately, we have no bookshelves. We've unpacked the essential books: The dictionary, two baby books, and the entire collection of Harry Potter, but I often find myself wanting to go to my books to look up a poem or a quote. Tonight, for example, I wanted to look up William Stafford's "Traveling Through the Dark" because I have this looping vision of R hitting a moose, and I need to write about it, but I don't know whether anyone can ever write another poem about hitting an animal on the road since Stafford wrote "Traveling."
I know I can usually Google these things, but there's something comforting about a college text in my hands. Hello old friend, I imagine it says.
Last night I made a list of all the things I want. I wrote "desires" at the top because it's a softer word. Bookshelves moved to the number one spot. R said this sounded like a list Sweet Potato might write. I wrote it because I thought a list might calm me down-- I could stop holding it all in my brain-- and because I want to stop wanting. I'm so lucky to be here, alive, in a home full of love and food and books, my three favorite things, I feel greedy ordering a cake pedestal on Ebay.
That must be why, when it was delivered, it turned out to be just big enough for a single cupcake. It was karma-- and my failure to read fine print.
Here's another thing about New England no one ever told me: When the leaves get all red and golden glowy and start to fall the lush foliage dies away, and one can see between the trees so much farther than she was able to see before, across stretches of green meadows and lakes that were hidden in summer-- they're all revealed now, like secrets.

Traveling through the Dark

by William Stafford

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason--
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all--my only swerving--,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.
****
From The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems by William Stafford. Copyright © 1962, 1998 Graywolf Press

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Holy moly!

All great art lets the viewer see something familiar in a completely unimagined way. Now that was a poem! Thanks for sharing - FMF

Anonymous said...

My freind Mo loves her old books too. She pours over them and considers them old friends. Luv QW

Suzanne said...

Oh lord, was what I said aloud in the quiet of this room with your pink chair when I finished that one -- that poem. It hit me just below the ribs, and it's not my first read, but it's like I forgot that I wanted to remember that doe and that swerve. And in writing this ramble of a response, I am jumping back into the writing that I didn't want to do today but I didn't know why. Now I do; I need that tender crouch in my mind as I tiptoe the line between academic writing on one side and old friends, the familiar, and the unimagined on the other. You and FMF and QW are my muses! Thanks!!!