January 2007

At the San Francisco Airport
by A. Yvor Winters

To my daughter, 1954

This is the terminal: the light
Gives perfect vision, false and hard;
The metal glitters, deep and bright.
Great planes are waiting in the yard—
They are already in the night.

And you are here beside me, small,
Contained and fragile, and intent
On things that I but half recall—
Yet going whither you are bent.
I am the past, and that is all.

But you and I in part are one:
The frightened brain, the nervous will,
The knowledge of what must be done,
The passion to acquire the skill
To face that which you dare not shun.

The rain of matter upon sense
Destroys me momently. The score:
There comes what will come. The expense
Is what one thought, and something more—
One’s being and intelligence.

This is the terminal, the break.
Beyond this point, on lines of air,
You take the way that you must take;
And I remain in light and stare—
In light, and nothing else, awake.

Ill Wind

Two red birds
high on a wire
one said love
one said fire

Two black birds
deep in a tree
one said you
one said me

But wind came up
and tossed them away
no one hears
what they say

-Michael Ryan

Still down with the flu, 12 days later. One of these days, someone’s gonna step off a plane from China with a flu from which we won’t recover. People say that if you were breast fed, your immune system is stronger. I must not have been. Since Mother is long gone it’s too late to ask. Here’s a nice poem from Donald Hall:


When love empties itself out,
it fills our bodies full.

For an hour we lie braiding
pulse and skin together,

like infants who sigh
and doze, dreamy with milk.

Crossed over into the new year still sick with a Christmas cold. Nothing to do but lay in bed and read. For some reason, I’ve got four self-help books going. Gets a bit confusing. As one “spiritual advisor” I paid a lot of money to, once told me, they don’t help at all. All you do is read a bunch of words and keep acting the same way you always have. Well, I can’t accept that fatalistic a point of view, but there may be some truth in it.
“The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine.
I’ll save you $24.95 by summing this one up for you: hormones drive women crazy, at least once a month, and then really crazy at menopause. Menopausal women who’ve waited hand and foot on their husbands all their lives are sick of that after menopause. I don’t blame them. The author is an M.D. and trying to solve the mysteries between men and women by researching the way we react to the hormones our bodies are swimming in. Maybe, it’s just that I’m already ‘around the curve’ with most of this information. Maybe for some this will all come as helpful news. Maybe when you only have a few hundred pages, you’ve got to keep it simple. Men are men, and women are women. Still, from experience I know, there are many variations in gender roles and testosterone levels, that make easy answers almost impossible to find, out in the real world.
“The Wonder of Boys” by Michael Gurian.
Beautiful compassionate meanderings on the meaning of boyhood and manhood, in these times. He needs an editor, but he’s so passionate and giving about the points of view he expresses that it’s OK. One problem with the generalizations that these books pass off as truths, is that I can readily think of so many contradictions drawn from my own life experience. Anytime that you say that all girls are like this, and all boys like that, I think of the men and women that I’ve known who consistently acted in the opposite manner.
“Social Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman.
This guy’s done his homework and still has something heartfelt to say about it. Alot of this information could actually help you in the day to day of understanding what it is exactly that people are trying to tell you, and for that matter, helping other people understand what it is that YOU meant to say.
“Getting the Love You Want” by Harvelle Hendrix.
Now that’s a title that I would’ve refused to even pick up in a bookstore. But it was given to me, so I dove in. This is a great book. Harvelle has taken his own life experience along with years of work as a therapist and written an honest, truthful book about the man-woman power struggle. This is mostly for couples for whom there is some hope for staying together. Not sure that everyone SHOULD stay together, but as he says, many people move on, only to end up picking another person just like the one they left behind. I hate to generalize in the same manner that I’ve just taken fault with, but many of our relationships are based on an unconscious attempt to work out childhood emotional traumas, or to re-create our parent’s emotional power stuggles and finally ‘fix’ the ‘unfixable’.
Thank you, Dr. McNally. Well, I’m sorry, our 50 minutes is up. I’ll see you again next week and please don’t forget your checkbook!
Phew, how much of that stuff can one take. I put it away and read the 2006 Best American Poetry compilation. Better that I pull my inspiration from there, lest my songs turn into self-help mantras (if they haven’t already).
Happy New Year!