Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday Poet: Louise Gluck

Feeling slightly deflated after the most beautiful wedding ever, in which The Best Friend married the best man. French Dandy Dude was my fake date (bringing your best male friend to a wedding is akin to bringing your cousin to the prom, but...), and it was a memorable weekend. Weddings are a lot of work, and very busy occasions with lots of flowers to arrange and parties to attend, and it was almost busy enough to distract me away from the knowledge that I am entering a new era of my life.

An era in which my friends are going more than they are coming, in which there will be marriages and births, and in which I am not always sure where I fit in the maelstorm of change. I think we all were thinking that this weekend, and French Dandy Dude in particular. Seeing him off was almost anticlimatic, after the huge occasion that was the wedding. A ceremonious beginning and end, as it were.

I think it was possibly the most emotionaly resonant ceremony I have ever experienced--my siblings marriages seemed inevitable, you expect someone 10 years older than you to get married and have children. I grew up knowing that my siblings would start their own households, but that they wouldn't be too far from the central homestead. So to look at my best girl, someone I've grown up with since the age of 14, someone I love as much as either of my two biological sisters--it was much too much for me. She was so beautiful in her dress and veil, and to juxtapose the memory of her I had at 14, to now, from the girls we were to the women we are--so much change, in a single glance! To talk to her parents, who are de facto second parents to me and approach them not as a child, but as an adult--how I wonder at the passing of years. To talk to her and her husband, to realize that she has a new family and that I will be a part of it--how much of American life is about the creation of new homes and families and smaller worlds. I am happy for her, of course, and my emotions aren't sad ones. My girl is happy and loved, and my tears for her are of happiness, and my heart is overwhelmed with love, not grief. I think what I felt was surprise at my heart's capacity to expand even further, to grow with love, to encompass her many stages and the person she has chosen to spend her life with. I thought I could not love her better--but I do. So when I think of her, I am happy.

I feel a little less happy with the parting of Frech Dandy Dude. We've had so many ups and downs this year, with all the hysterical law school drama, with our own friendship, that the past month--in which we were de facto roomates, spending almost all of our spare time together, without drama or conflict--well, it was something I got used to. And now it's gone, and I don't think we will ever be able to spend that much time together again, what with him going to school on the other side of the country and living the rest of his life in France. It is a strange feeling of emptiness--my tiny studio is suddenly too big without him, I have too many baguettes and too much artisanal cheese now. He's my first close friend in a long while, and while there has never been any romantic or sexual tension between us, he was the closest I've come to in recent memory in terms of emotionally connecting with a man, and virtually living with one. I know I can love a man better--more deeply, passionately, spiritually, mind, body and soul--but the way I love my friends in general is as unconditional and true as I can love. So it's a loss, and I feel it, almost as much as when my first love went away.

And so this weekend was a ceremony to end all ceremonies, more significant than any wedding I've been to, more resonant than any pomp and circumstance graduation I (will not) attend. The older I get, the more I realize the empty significance of ceremonies. When you are young, the ceremonies are occasions for presents and parties. When you get older, they take on a declaratory role, to announce, recognize, and share the vicissitudes of life--the unions, the births, the deaths. They make the annual fete almost unimportant. It was quite emotional for me. I cried the entire ceremony, but I believed her, in the 10th post-ceremony hug, when she said "I love you" and "nothing will change." I didn't cry at the airport, but I did murmur something barely audible, which I think was heard anyway.

Poems for today, for a particular mood.

Love Poem

There is always something to be made of pain.
Your mother knits.
She turns out scarves in every shade of red.
They were for Christmas, and they kept you warm
while she married over and over, taking you
along. How could it work,
when all those years she stored her widowed heart
as though the dead come back.
No wonder you are the way you are,
afraid of blood, your women
like one brick wall after another.


A man and a woman lie on a white bed.
It is morning. I think
Soon they will waken.
On the bedside table is a vaseof lilies; sunlight
pools in their throats.I watch him turn to her
as though to speak her name
but silently, deep in her mouth--
At the window ledge,
once, twice,
a bird calls.
And then she stirs; her body
fills with his breath.

I open my eyes; you are watching me.
Almost over this room
the sun is gliding.
Look at your face, you say,
holding your own close to me
to make a mirror.
How calm you are. And the burning wheel
passes gently over us.


In the early evening, a now, as man is bending
over his writing table.
Slowly he lifts his head; a woman
appears, carrying roses.
Her face floats to the surface of the mirror,
marked with the green spokes of rose stems.

It is a form
of suffering: then always the transparent page
raised to the window until its veins emerge
as words finally filled with ink.

And I am meant to understand
what binds them together
or to the gray house held firmly in place by dusk

because I must enter their lives:
it is spring, the pear tree
filming with weak, white blossoms.

Penelope's Song

Little soul, little perpetually undressed one
,Do now as I bid you, climb
The shelf-like branches of the spruce tree;
Wait at the top, attentive, like
A sentry or look-out. He will be home soon;
It behooves you to be
Generous. You have not been completely
Perfect either; with your troublesome body
You have done things you shouldn't
Discuss in poems. Therefore
Call out to him over the open water, over the bright
With your dark song, with your grasping,
Unnatural song--passionate,
Like Maria Callas. Who
Wouldn't want you? Whose most demonic appetite
Could you possibly fail to answer? Soon
He will return from wherever he goes in the
Suntanned from his time away, wanting
His grilled chicken. Ah, you must greet him,
You must shake the boughs of the tree
To get his attention,
But carefully, carefully, lest
His beautiful face be marred
By too many falling needles.