Friday, June 22, 2007

Solstice, Shadows and Sobs

The first thing I want you to do is read this very striking poem. Then I need you to go to June 22's The Writer's Almanac and learn about the summer solstice. Read the week's poems while you're there, or let Mr. Keillor read them to you in his dulcet tones.

Thanks to Bob Sisson for mentioning this Writer's Alamanc entry (and checking if we had shadows on the summer solstice) . (And, yes, despite popular rumor, I do have one).

So, with no further ado, please read this fabulous poem.

I {Heart} My Wife

"I {Heart} My Wife"
the bumper sticker read
in the window of the pickup truck
ahead of me at the red light,
and I burst into tears
for no particular reason
I could explain
to the crossing guard on the corner
or even to the man driving the truck,
who looked quite ordinary,
and did not realize
those four happy words
could rip a woman's heart out
under certain circumstances,
when she's one man's abscessed tooth,
and another's dirty little secret.

Then I stopped to wonder,
as I blew my nose
and wiped my eyes,
whether the man had bought the bumper sticker
at all, or if his wife had perhaps
stuck it there,
in the window behind his head,
as a message to women like me,
whom she surely knows are sitting
at every red light
in every town,
wishing they could one day be
very best thing.

by Darlyn Finch, from Red Wax Rose. © Shady Lane Press, 2007.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Turning off the Tube

I have turned off my television and I don’t miss it.

I am not an anti-TV snob. I used to love to watch television shows about crime and the supernatural. I even found a show that provided both. In all, I watched five or six hours of TV a week. (The number fluctuated depending on how horrific the storyline was on Law & Order: SVU. My friend Alicia was very used to my once- or twice-a-season declaration that I would never watch that show again. The acting was fantastic and the stories were compelling, but the tales often were more than I could handle watching.)

Rarely did I watch my shows “live.” Usually I would tape the shows and watch them at my leisure.

The networks themselves launched their own demise. Once the networks moved Medium and Without a Trace, then the original Law & Order, from their long-held time slots, I had a hard time finding them. They conflicted with other shows and I had to choose. My friends and I would tape shows for each other depending on who was available to tape what.

(This was before the easy availability of TiVO or or cable DVR, and our cable boxes prevented us from watching one show and taping another.)

Then I read a Washington Post article about the upcoming television season that pointed out the obvious: so many shows I watched had crimes happening to children and women. Women and children were the victims of horrific crimes like rape and murder, beatings, gunshot wounds, kidnapping, slavery and more.

So I stopped watching crime shows. CSI, Without a Trace and SVU were off my list. I couldn’t abandon the original Law & Order because I loved Jerry Orbach like my favorite uncle. Lenny might have fallen off the wagon and arranged to have a mook killed to avenge his daughter’s death, but I loved him.

(I stopped watching LOST for an entirely different reason: television seasons became shorter and too many shows in a row were re-runs. Once I lose the story thread of a complex story, I’m not inclined to work harder than the network to keep my interest.)

That left me down to two shows: Medium and Law & Order. The characters and story lines were interesting and so different. I loved how Allison’s family life affected the story lines of Medium and loved how the personal lives of Lenny and Greene (and the rest) rarely affected the Law & Order story lines. I stopped watching ER because of all of the inter-office dating of characters; trust me, people don’t hop in and out of bed with co-workers like that in any place I’ve worked. (I’ve checked with my friends, and it’s not like that in their work worlds, either.)

Then my VCR broke. A friend gave me one of his, but it didn’t have a remote and it was very difficult to program. (Okay, it was very difficult for me to program — Alicia had no problem setting it for me.)

Finally, I realized I wasn’t changing the tapes. I would forget to put a new tape in every couple of weeks, so Alicia and I would lose shows.

Then I got busy and stopped making time for television viewing. I began traveling more and consuming mass quantities of books. Friends who watched certain shows would share the storyline with me — and I found that was enough for me.

After about a year, I asked to borrow the season finale of Medium and discovered I couldn’t watch it. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood, maybe I was out of the habit, maybe I hadn’t yet built up my calluses to violence, but after 10 minutes I had to stop watching. The brutality of the murders of young women was too gruesome for me.

Oh, I love my television. I use it to watch movies and I’ve been known to catch an episode of Law & Order when I come across it. I find do-it-yourself home improvement programs interesting and the cable company offers a wide selection of music listening stations. However, I can keep the television turned off for weeks at a time and not miss it. And with television programming awash with reality television I don’t care to watch, it’s not a bad thing.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Do you remember what it was like back then?

I hope you have been keeping up on your poetry (except for those still waiting for their poetry books from me, shame on me!).

To continue keeping your poetry muscle strong, please enjoy this piece courtesy of The Writer's Almanac — and wax nostalgic about those golden junior high school years.

(You can stop laughing. Were they really that bad? Let me check out my eighth grade yearbook and — oh, my. Okay, continue laughing. I'll join you in a moment, once I stop weeping for the awful fashion sense of the passing decades.)

After you return from Memory Lane, let me know what you've been reading and I will tell you the same. Check out my other blog entries — tell me what you think and tell me what moves you to emotion. I will try to be more prolific and give you more reasons to return to this blog, including the occasional poetic morsel.

The Junior High School Band Concert

When our semi-conductor
Raised his baton, we sat there
Gaping at Marche Militaire,
Our mouth-opening number.
It seemed faintly familiar
(We'd rehearsed it all that winter),
But we attacked in such a blur,
No army anywhere
On its stomach or all fours
Could have squeezed though our cross fire.

I played cornet, seventh chair
Out of seven, my embouchure
A glorified Bronx cheer
Through that three-keyed keyhole stopper
And neighborhood window slammer
Where mildew fought for air
At every exhausted corner,
My fingering still unsure
After scaling it for a year
Except on the spit-valve lever.

Each straight-faced mother and father
Rested his moral fiber
Against our traps and slurs
And the inadvertent whickers
Paradiddled by our snares,
And when the brass bulled forth
A blare fit to horn over
Jericho two bars sooner
Than Joshua's harsh measures,
They still had the nerve to stare.

By the last lost chord, our director
Looked older and soberer.
No doubt, in mind's ear
Some band somewhere
In some Music of some Sphere
Was striking a note as pure
As the wishes of Franz Schubert,
But meanwhile here we were:
A lesson in everything minor,
Decomposing our first composer.

by David Wagoner, from Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems. © University of Illinois Press, 1999.