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Cherry Blossoms, Blue Skies - can this be Seattle?


The morning is lost in newspapers, books and online reading. We take a family walk. The cherry trees are all abloom giving hope in what is another cold April following last year's record breaker. After lunch, I sit down at my desk with Steven Dobyns book, Best Words, Best Order : essays on poetry in my search for verse to share with you in Poetry Month.


But I am waylaid. In a chapter called "Reader's Life," Dobyns quotes: "William Trevor defined the short story as 'the art of the glimpse' and that reminds me of Ben Lerner's story, "The Ferry" in the recent New Yorker https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2023/04/10/the-ferry-fiction-ben-lerner . The story starts out "Hey I understand you’re angry, the first message said. A man’s voice, probably a man my age. I would be angry, too. I know I messed up." A series of messages are left on his phone by an anonymous caller. Or is he anonymous? Throwing his life topsy-turvy. I'm a big fan of Lerner's books (Leaving the Atocha Station, 10:04, The Topeka School) and he's written before about male rage in a magazine essay. I like his "meta-fiction" style of inserting himself into the story so he becomes the narrator. I appreciate the interactions with his ten-year-old daughter, the humdrum activities of an involved Manhattan father with the backdrop of these terrifying phone messages.


Short stories have had a particular pull on me this spring, starting with Alice Adams' collection, After You've Gone, a few gems from Grace Paley recommended by my teacher/friend Martha Gies, and one by Laurie Colwin revisited in The New Yorker https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2023/04/17/evensong-fiction-laurie-colwin. Chekhov glows from the bookshelf.


But it is poetry I am reading for a class in Federico Garcia Lorca. Here is one of my favorites mentioning the three great cities of Andalusia:


Arbole, Arbole


Tree, tree,

dry and green.


The girl with the pretty face

is out picking olives.

The wind, playboy of towers,

grabs her around the waist.

Four riders passed by

on Andalusian ponies,

with blue and green jackets

and big, dark capes.

“Come to Cordoba, muchacha.”

The girl won’t listen to them.


Three young bullfighters passed,

slender in the waist,

with jackets the color of oranges

and swords of ancient silver.

“Come to Sevilla, muchacha.”

The girl won’t listen to them.


When the afternoon had turned

dark brown, with scattered light,

a young man passed by, wearing

roses and myrtle of the moon.

“Come to Granada, muchacha.”

And the girl won’t listen to him.


The girl with the pretty face

keeps on picking olives

with the grey arm of the wind

wrapped around her waist.


Tree, tree,

dry and green.


And another heralding the pain and passion of a flamenco guitar:


Guitar


The weeping of the guitar begins.

The goblets of dawn are smashed.

The weeping of the guitar begins.


Useless to silence it.

Impossible to silence it.


It weeps monotonously

as water weeps

as the wind weeps over snowfields.

impossible to silence it.


It weeps for distant things.


Hot southern sands

yearning for white camellias.

Weeps arrow without target

evening without morning

and the first dead bird

on the branch.


Oh, guitar!

Heart mortally wounded

by five swords.


And so the day is consumed by literature until the dinner bell. And I haven't even mentioned what we're listening to or watching on TV. Flamenco guitars, of course, and the fine documentary, Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song on Netflix. He admired Lorca and named his son after him. Have you read or seen anything good lately?


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