Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sprezzatura \ Solstice Tutti Frutti

Nancy:  Not a wind that would toss the spruce, just a breeze – but it made all the difference to the hackmatack.


A poem about hackmatack
devolves into a list of names
(Latin, or regional), a definition
of evergreen (it's not), of conifer
(barely), of its uses: oddly
maritime, certain trees having
a growth pattern lending itself
to use as the "knee" of a ship
(boat) and none of this is poetry
making it all the more surprising
this morning to look up and see
the hackmatack suddenly graceful
lifting in the wind, a wind
that leaves the spruce
stolid as ever; the hackmatack,
still in that delicate green
of new needles.
Suddenly, nothing to do
with definitions, the hackmatack
in the grace of its movements
dives deep into my consciousness:
sprezzatura!  Yes! Having
no one to share this
thought, I say it to myself:
sprezzatura.  Hackmatack.

Alan:  My song track for 1956 includes Elvis’ version of “Tutti Frutti,” which came out that year, and a couple of saccharine ditties sung by Dale Evans and, it seems, every girl in my class: the one that starts “Have faith, hope, and charity...” and the one that goes “Jesus loves me, this I know.”  Simpler times.

Solstice Tutti Frutti

Blather and banter of TV weatherguy
Steve and newsanchor Chris –
two neckties under lollipop faces,
Steve’s snub-nosed, flat,
Chris pointy-chinned with eyes
professionally crinkled.

Chris: “I hope you’re enjoying these
long days, Steve.”  Steve: “Sure am, Chris.
So great to have sun
so early and late.”  Chris: “Yup, almost
the equinox.” Equinox!  Where
were you when they handed out brains,
I think, forgetting that

they are just TV guys filling time and
the purpose of all this is to lull us into
the next commercial break, so on
they judder.  “Well, Steve,
a lop bop a loo bop a lop!”
and I’m off on my high horse

of recall.  My father, my father
was a meteorologist a real one
and was even on TV once it was 1956 
the TV was small in a cabinet black&white
our first and we watched as he, looking

nervous and pale, explained something
about weather which I didn’t understand
or forget now but often
he would tell us (not on TV)
that a weatherman was someone
who could look into a girl’s eyes
and tell “whether” and a long-
range forecaster could do the same
and tell “when”

and I didn’t get the joke
at that age, nine years, but thought it
was funny because of how he said it,

also he said that his mother, Granny,
never forgave him for predicting rain
for her garden party
and it rained.  It rained!  Prediction
being a kind of unsympathetic
magic I guess but she was the one
who asked

and that was the year
we lived in a big old
house on a corner in Newtonville
and I learned that cleaners were cleansers
and Indian burns didn’t hurt
they smahted and people drank
tonic not soda and spoke in double
negatives as in ain’t got no
said my mother who had
wanted to be a teacher

and I walked to Carr School
which was old and had tall windows
and smelled of wool in the winter
which I know is a stereotypical
memory but still true there was
a cloakroom, even then that was weird

and I had a best friend, Arthur
Brostrup, whose house I went to once
it was small and run-down
and cluttered at the end of a short dirt road
his father cut and sold firewood for a living
which at least meant he did something
I could understand we read
comicbooks all afternoon he had so many
covering the floor

it was very unlike the rest of Newtonville
as I knew it big frame houses, tall trees
on big square blocks also I took my
accordion (it was that era) on the bus
by myself, lugging all 25 pounds of it
to Belmont and along a couple of
city blocks the case banging
against my leg so I had to switch
sides every so often to a house with a turret
with curved glass windows
for lessons

also there was a girl
at a birthday party who was so pretty
in her party dress which was the first time I noticed
anything like that and so she was
my first love even if we never
spoke and that was our only time

also I would ride my bike
into Newton Center to the hobby shop
and buy model planes with my allowance
and the glue that made you woozy
also there was a crossing guard
also the leaves along the way were big
and when it rained they sheltered you
until suddenly they didn’t
also we were taught duck for the oyster
dig for the clam that’s all I remember
of the fourth grade curriculum

also ten years later or so
I came back with my mother
on a whim to find that the house
was gone the corner lot turned
into a 5-story apartment building
the whole neighborhood
apartment buildings

where my father had hidden the
Christmas tree around back so we could
“discover” it and bring it inside
for Christmas also where we got the phone call
having supper in the side room with all the glass
that had been a studio the owner we were
renting was something of an artist
it had northern exposure we got the phone
call that Granny was dead it was
sudden a brain leak I didn’t cry

but later I hid in my bed at the back
off the second floor where the narrow
back stairs came up from the kitchen
and where I’d been stung by a wasp
that clung to me as I ran for it

and looked at the coconut-head face
carved by the artist the whole place
was filled with paintings and lumpy
sculptures once I squirted my
squirt gun on an oil painting and the
paint got soft and smeared in one place

so tiny no one would notice, would they?
and wondered why I couldn’t cry
but death was still abstract except
for baby birds that the cat brought in
and the kitten my father stepped on in the
dark in the closet he forgot the mama
cat was in there with her litter
but that was another place

and when we came back it was all
gone bam boom!

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