Thursday, July 22, 2010

What To Do When It is Too Hot Outside

To me the answer is:
read,
or make things,
including food,
 and if desperate organize the messy closets in your house.

Let's start with reading:

Here's another poem by Li-Young Lee that I love.

It is for you to read if you're too hot to go outside:


My Father, in Heaven, Is Reading Out Loud


My father, in heaven is reading out loud
to himself Psalms or news. Now he ponders what
he's read No. He is listening for the sound
of children in the yard. Was that laughing
or crying? So much depends upon the
answer, for either he will go on reading,
or he'll run to save a chid's day from grief.
As it is in heaven, so it was on earth.


Because my father walked the earth with a grave,
determined rhythm, my shoulders ached 
from his gaze. Because my father's shoulders 
ached from pulling the oars, my life now moves
with a powerful back-and-forth rhythm:
nostalgia, speculation. Because he
made me recite a book a month, I forget
everything as soon as I read it. And knowledge
never comes but while I'm mid-stride a flight
of stairs, or lost a moment on some avenue.


A remarkable disappointment to him,
I am like anyone who arrives late
in the millennium and is unable
to stay to the end of days. The world's 
beginnings are obscure to me, its outcomes
inaccessible.  I don't understand 
the source of starlight or starlight's destinations.
And already another year slides out


of balance. But I don't disparage scholars;
my father was one and I loved him,
who packed his books once, and all of our belongings,
then sat down to await instruction
from his god, yes, but also from a radio.
At the doorway, I watched, and I suddenly 
knew he was one like me, who got my learning
under a lintel; he was one of the powerless,
to whom knowledge came while he sat among 
suitcases, boxes, old newspapers, string.


He did not decide peace or war, home or exile,
escape by land or escape by sea.
He waited merely, as always someone 
waits, far, near, here, hereafter to find out
is it praise or lament hidden in the next moment?



I like this poem because it touches some of the ideas that I've been wrestling to bring out in the editing of my soon-to-be-in-print novel Solomon's Puzzle -- in this case, the connection between fathers and sons. I like how this poet writes original, true and touching ideas about his connection to his father. The poet is honest and he has some beautiful things to explain about this human relationship. True, it is not a sit-com sort of father and son relationship, is it? It's too real and too confusing.

I also like the way the poet explores the idea of how people come to know things.  In a recent conversation, someone confided that the are upset when others say to them "God said to me..." or "God told me..." This always startles me too and I feel it is because I haven't the confidence to make such a claim. The person explained that biblical accounts of God speaking meant that the person who heard or understood was invariably frightened. Moses hair turned white, for instance. The point being that it seems odd that God would tell someone there's a parking spot around the corner and the person actually being calm enough after hearing that to drive the car one inch further.

However in this poem, guidance is sought, but how it is understood to the listening reader is mysterious, often a quick and unexpected interruption to every day steps. In the poem it is portrayed to show both serendipity and mystery,"got my learning under a lintel," or understanding comes "while I'm mid-stride a flight/ of stairs, or lost a moment on some avenue."  The sense of hoping for guidance, listening for it,  wondering about your next task, about the future, a perpetual condition of the thoughtful person is illustrated here.

What do you think, dear reader?

Next... crafts for when it is too hot outside

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