Tuesday, March 26, 2019

To All the Cars I've Loved Before

(**inspired by being lost, again, at the Car Show in downtown Columbus)

Dear Brown, Tank-sized Station Wagon from the 1970s,

thank you for being there when I first learned to drive, and for teaching me to master parallel parking and the K turn, and for that day

when I was taking my driver's test and the guy yelled at me for driving down the center of the abandoned street and I started crying because I thought I had failed my test, but then the guy said, FINE, Go take your picture for your license, and I was crying and didn't want to take my picture but I did, and then my mom said Yay! You got your license, wanna drive home?

And I said NO! I hate driving! I never want to drive again!

And thank you, Small car, although I don't remember what color you were and never knew your make and model,

it was You who taught me to always wear shoes when I drove,

and to never ever ever drive in a nightgown to go pick up my boyfriend at one o'clock in the morning, where I would be sitting at a red light when a speeding car, --those headlights forever in the rear view mirror growing bigger and brighter (he's not going to stop HE'S NOT GOING TO STOP) hit me so hard I smashed my face on the steering wheel and totaled you-- so when the ambulance came to load me up, I had the great horror and shame of stumbling out of your accordion-wrecked body barefoot and nightgown clad.

And thank you, Chevy Spectrum (is that what you were called?)

a gift from my generous doting New England aunt when I graduated from college in Memphis, O how i loved you

until my aunt told me you had no air conditioning, --but Jody, do you really need air conditioning? Just turn on the fan. -- how (not) fondly I recall sitting in you, those 100-degree sweltering days, the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the only car with the windows open, the fan on full-blast blowing

hot air on my sweaty face.

Dear dear Bright Aquamarine Mini Van,

thank you for helping me schlep the kids all over town, the car seats and booster seats, the tossed toy cars and chewed on doll heads, the forever yellow and crispy McDonalds french fries tucked in your cushions,

the seemingly endless loop of carpools to preschool, elementary school, middle school, soccer practice, piano lessons, viola lessons, concerts, games, the friends multiplying in the back seats, the chatter/giggles/tantrums that sometimes gave me a headache but now in their absence make my heart ache.

All of you, Cars,

I forgive you your breakdowns, your heat, your flat tires, your cracked windshields, your dropped fan belts in the pouring rain.

In the end you did what you promised. You took me where I needed to go, and when the trip was over, you brought me home.



Sunday, March 17, 2019

When I met W.S. Merwin, all I could think about was

how he once knew Sylvia Plath. At twenty-two I was still wildly enamored with her brute black-booted daddy poems and the story of how she'd lost her mind in a cold flat in London and gassed herself while her toddlers slept in the next room. Part horror, part fascination, only a small part understanding. I knew next to nothing at age twenty-two,

but I knew enough to be excited that W.S. Merwin was visiting my MFA program to do a reading and later mingle with us at the wine-and-cheese.

I expected to meet the dark-haired Heathcliff-looking Sylvia Plath friend from the 1950's, but this man was white-haired and ancient,

still,

he had piercing blue eyes, and when I mingled with him while drinking my wine and eating my cheese, I want to think that I didn't mention Sylvia Plath,

that instead, asked him about his poems or at least sounded halfway interested and serious,

What I probably talked with him about was his poem "Air" because I'd used it in a poetry workshop when the assignment was to write a poem using another poem as a model, writing yours with the same number of syllables per line,




or I might've talked to him about his poem  "For the Anniversary of My Death" Every year without knowing it I have passed the day 

because I was blown away by how obvious the idea was and yet I'd never thought about it before,

but who knows what we talked about. That was almost thirty years ago. I think he signed his latest book for me...

Yes!

I just now checked, and the small volume of poetry is there on my bookshelf, proving I do have half a brain.

Today, the "Poem a Day" in my poetry.org email said: "Remembering W.S. Merwin." Apparently, he died two days ago, March 15th.

And so we both passed the day without knowing it.





Saturday, March 9, 2019

While Not in Rome

Last week my husband met up with our daughter and her roommate in Rome for the girls' spring break. Every day I would wake up to glorious pictures of linguini and gelato, the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel.


Then I would let the dog out, dart off to work, shelve 400 books, come home and settle in to write.

It was kind of a reverse retreat. The house was quiet, with no reason for me to stop working. I made a vat of potato soup and ate it all week. I read two books, one that was so crappy I wanted to fling it across the room and the other that restored my faith in the power of literature. When I needed to hear another human voice, I listened to a podcast.

(and lest you think I am too highbrow in my entertainment choices, I also binge-watched the raunchy Netflix cartoon Big Mouth and then, of course, took a bubble bath.)

It's strange living alone for a week.

I have never done it for much longer than that in my entire life. My husband and I have been married for 29 years. Before we married, I had roommates, and before that, I was a child living in a loud house with a lock on my door.

At one time I was afraid to be alone at night. My husband's traveled a lot over the years for business and I was fine when the kids were home, but once they moved out, the first time he left for a trip, I was worried that my old childhood fear of the dark would creep back.

It didn't.

Maybe it's the dog. I talk to her when I am alone and I swear she listens to me. When I'm parked too long in one position, she noses me until I get up and take her for a walk. At night when the house is settling and creaking and shadowy, she curls up at my feet on the bed. I know that she would bark away a ghost.


Not that I believe in ghosts, but you never know. I make up stories for a living. And by "a living" I mean, it is what I do. Night Number Eight alone, I mix it up a little. Eat leftover spaghetti. Scroll through the latest Roman holiday pictures. Settle in to write.

Later, I'll reward myself with a bubble bath.