…”It—the writing of Alette—” “was alive once” “scalding
gold of it” “bitter jet black thunderous train roar” “and the quiet caves”
“and quieter still, the” “incomplete dark Paradise”
– Alice Notley
I made myself finish Mysteries of Small Houses, but it was more useful as a learning experience, rather than enjoyable as a reading experience. The Descent of Alette is probably one of my favorite poetry books of all time—I’ve read it 3.5 times, that half read only because I left my copy in the seat pocket in front of me on a plane. Since I’m interested in books that are not sectioned off, that have no obvious framing device, that are just poems that all come together to do the work, and since I so loved Alette, I made myself finish. But I kept checking to see how many pages were left, and I didn’t read it all in one sitting, like I usually do with poetry collections. I’m intent on not being a hater, though, so I’ll just say that I’d like to emulate Notley’s honesty.
I found my camera battery charger, predictably, in a safe and obvious place. So here are a couple of orchid blooms, taken accidentally with flash:
I’m still working on reading that book. It’s been so long since I started reading it that I had to reread what I had already read, but I’m determined this time. After today, it’s spring break at the University of Alabama, and I’m flying home tomorrow for Passover, so there will be plenty of time to read on the plane. Planes scare the shit out of me (much like most things that present opportunity for horrific death), but reading is one way that I can calm down a little. The drone of the plane helps me concentrate on the words on the page, instead of on my terror, and I really don’t like small-talk conversations with strangers, so I have to keep my eyes on the page to avoid making accidental eye contact. Reading back through this paragraph, I sound incredibly neurotic, but I think that might be an accurate portrayal.
I haven’t been home for Passover since I was a junior in high school. When I was in college, I never went home on breaks, and my senior year of high school, I was on a college visit and I missed the seder. I knew I was going to miss it, and my Bubbe was in the late stages of pancreatic cancer, so I spent the night at her house before leaving town, and I missed the seder and then she died. Passover has always been my favorite holiday, but all the other holidays I’ve been home for haven’t been the same, our giant family dwindling and shifting over the years, and when we get together around the dining room table now there are empty seats. My aunts always tell the same stories, repeat the same infuriating narratives about things I never actually did when I was a kid, but I let them tell the stories because it’s a tiny piece of continuity. Remember the time with the bad cake. Remember the time with the choke-hold. Remember the time with the splinters. It’s our oral tradition, and we have these holiday gatherings in a different dining room now, but we’re still carrying around these stories. We’re still getting angry at each other for old hurts. It’s still my favorite holiday, because of the ceremony of the thing, the wine dropped like blood onto the plate, the calling of the plagues.