Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Learning What It Is To Be A Woman \ Pipits

Nancy:  Think of it as “take your daughter to work day” for the ‘30s.  There was work to do and more hands – even young ones – made lighter work.  Me, Mama, Granny, Aunt Mary, Aunt Nannie: often four or five generations.  In retrospect, I’d choose it over preschool or play dates. 
Learning What It Is To Be A Woman
I learned from women.
By example, deliberately: how to
shave heavy bars of laundry soap into
translucent curls; how to scald jars;
how to stretch curtains and plant roses
and hem handkerchiefs.
I learned
by maxim and frequent admonition:
not to run so much; not to sprawl;
not to be loud; not to call attention
to myself immodestly; not to go down the
creek on a raft with the boys.
I learned
elliptically, by half-sentences and silences:
as I sat beneath a ripple of words, three
women in straight chairs shelling peas;
as I teased out the knots forming and loosing
in the murmurous green air, three generations
of women, three kitchen chairs under the trees.
And of course I went on to learn
by misadventure and disappointment;
learn from men; learn from children;
learn from unexpected doses of bitter and sweet
as they had, as they knew I would.
For a long time I thought I was moving away.
But they’ve been waiting, I’ve been catching up.
There’s a chair there for me, four women,
four generations at the center of the maze.
I still have one or two things to learn.
Alan:  For years, Memorial Day weekend meant “Bird Day,” a 24 hour just-for-fun species count ending at our house.  Our friend Marion Stocking was like the whippoorwills that we could count on being here each spring without fail, until one year they weren’t.
In Memoriam MKS
Late May, and into June
we have, if no longer
a full dawn chorus
and its evening echo 
(too many losses in our
local avifauna for that –
the steady swirl of species
going down the drain),
at least a decent choir,
slowly diminishing each week
to high summer’s quietude,
the way your hearing thinned,
the highest pitches –
black-and-white warbler,
pine siskin – going first,
and gradually the range
of musics still emerging
from our depauperate woods
and fields becoming
half-felt buzz.
Still, each year’s visit,
you’d walk out at dusk,
pale with the exhausting day,
away from the chatter,
to cup your ear
for the Swainson’s thrush,
somewhere down the hill,
a bird of memory
you knew was there;
then, turn back
unfulfilled, pausing only
to savor the last daffodils
and the sweetest, pipits,
named for a bird we’d never
seen or heard here: small
yellow trumpets
glowing silently
in the almost dark.

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