Friday, June 4, 2010

beans, pickles, and scooter

There is a woman who plays golf in the morning. Strapped across her back
is a bag full of clubs. She doesn't even put the bag down to putt. When she's done on the green, she jogs to the next tee, bag bouncing and clanging off her back. After she tees off, she straps the burden back on and jogs down the fairway and out of sight. One can only assume she keeps this pace for the whole round. And one knows for a fact she'll do the same in the rain. If one would take my word for it. Because, I've seen her. I stop what I'm doing and I watch her.

I stop what I'm doing. To witness endurance, I submit to laziness. Ether, what to make of that? Consider this poem, let's learn more of this wherewithal, this evident though mysterious momentum:


The sun-kilned carapace

Of the Cumberland slider toils

On hoist-thick legs across

The newly tarred highway.

The nearest bend of creek

Runs through Abernathy’s

Farm, and that’s a good half-mile

Behind the arrow of her tail.

She nears the citrine stripes—

The painted, double caution-lines.

Around the arc of gleaming pitch,

An El Camino revs.

Macadam resonates with bass

Guitar and kick-drum underneath

Her plastron. Bald tires squeal

And burn and stop just short

Of the turtle half a mile away

From Abernathy’s farm

Where her family forms a dragon

On the petrified logs.

The gumptious golfer, the toilsome turtle, and, exhibit C, behold my new friends, the cautiously-quenched cacti.

I had been coveting cacti
quite consistently for a while
when I found this trio of adorable pricklers at, of all places, though where else of course, Ikea.

Why cacti, Ether? Can't you guess. I am drawn to their hardiness. Not as kindred spirit but as jealous admirer. As pupil to student.

The cactus needs little to thrive. It stores nourishment against the barrenness of dry months on end. They can be the only green in eyesight, like a crop of alien fingers pushing through the crust of a desolate planet--galaxies elsewhere.

And then, sufficiently slaked and stock-piled, the cactus dares all comers to plunder its hydrant trove. Come skewer, lance, and shiv yourself; come dare and steal my liquid treasure.

My cacti (Beans, Pickles, Scooter from left to right on bottom picture), beyond being adorable, serve as symbols of the writer's life. At least the life of a writer like me. Because a writer like me has very little water. It only comes in sips when the occasional poem gets published or a kind word comes on unexpected lips applauding the virtue of some random line. The temptation is to gulp, because the thirst is so great, because it's been so long and who knows how long it will be again; but no, save some for later. Against the barrenness of months on end. And when the rejections come, and come, and come, like flocks of pillaging birds, from all sides--let them come. Let the thorn in your side be the thorn in theirs. Because turn about is fair and all is fair in poetry and poetry can protect itself.

But it takes reminders. So I look at my cactus friends. They sit on my desk like a macabre memento mori of old. But instead of a skull to evoke thoughts of death they are alien fingers evoking thoughts athletes and turtles, endurance and survival.

When I stop what I'm doing to look at my cacti, it is not to submit to laziness; it is to prick my finger and get back to work.

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