My poem “Cultivar” appears in the latest issue of elimae; click on the link above to read it.
Formally or thematically this poem doesn’t really have anything in common with my piece “Self-Portrait as List of Figures,” but I think of them as related—poetic fraternal twins, perhaps—because they were both inspired by a trip I took last fall. We went to Phoenix to visit a friend and see Brent Green’s stunning film GRAVITY WAS EVERYWHERE BACK THEN. (I’ve written about that trip on this blog, under the post for the poem “Self-Portrait…”) It was a trip marked by chiaroscuro, by the oh-so-light-and-lovely and by the darkness on the horizon.
"Cultivar" differs from my normal tone, and I both like that and remain surprised by it. Its allusion to Penelope’s bed has me thinking this morning of what it means to build something, to construct it with your own hands & labor. Behind me as I write is furniture my great grandfather built—an end table, a bourbon barrel turned into a wet bar. The latter is one of my prized possessions.
This weekend I will return to my hometown and sleep in a bed that belonged to my ancestors. I do not know how I feel about this—this first time I will have stayed in my parents’ house since my brother’s death. They have lived in this house for nearly 20 years, but this will be the first time I am not sleeping in my childhood bedroom, because my brother had moved into it before he died, and his things are still on the bed. I am not allowed to sleep in my room, and I do not know how I feel about that. (To be fair, I should say that my mother and I had a pretty healthy conversation about all this a few weeks ago, and I think that the room is not always going to be a shrine to Austin. That surprised me. It was good.)
I think it’s important to build things sometimes. It’s good to know how things work. At one point in my life, I had a favorite kind of sander (bumblebee). I’ve been known to teach myself things just on principle—the idea that this is something you should be able to do.
Over the weekend, my husband was frustrated with something I’d asked him to do (confer with mechanics) and said, “I mean, I don’t know what a carburetor does. Do you?”” I did know (it regulates fuel & air flow into the engine), but I also knew that most cars don’t even have carburetors anymore (they’ve been phased out in favor of fuel injectors).
I should say that my husband is a good man. And I should say that he could have picked a thousand things that I wouldn’t have known about; he just happened onto one of the things I did know. This is the only time in my entire life that it’s been useful for me to know what a carburetor does. But even though it’s not knowledge I needed, I think it’s important to have.
So maybe here’s what I’m trying to say, loves: get out there. Sleep in a different bedroom. Learn something that seems superfluous. Roll Tide.