Real Quick

I'm swamped with freshman comp essays, upper-division Modernism essays, job applications, and general everyday tasks, but I do want to mention that I got to hear Alice Friman read last night at the University of Tennessee, part of the Writers in the Library Series. Really a wonderful reading with some moving poems. And Friman is as wise as she is hilarious.

Some of my favorite quotes from the patter between poems:
"Poetry is the great permission."
"Falling in love is my great hobby in life--that's a joke."
"Don't you think that 'accessible' is the sexiest word in the English language? Think about it."
Here's the setlist from her performance (though I think I'm missing one poem):
"Depression Glass"
"Visiting the Territories"
"The Color of Ineffable"
"Apollo Comes to Floyds Nob, Indiana"
"Aunt Nellie's Walk"
"My Father's Chrysler" (new poem)
"The Waiting Room"
"Permanent Press"
"The Price"
"On Loving a Younger Man"
"Imitating Nature"

Permanent Press

When I think of that summer, it opens
like a pleat in cloth: lake, tree, out-
blooming itself. What deep delicious
yardage of suffering: the virginal
July we defended, all the while itching
willful and goatish. Five hundred larks
rising from the fields and all I could do
was stare at the scar on your arm—
the gold embroidery I longed to touch.

What difference that time and pharmacology
delivered too late? I loved you then
in the old way of longing. Four wars,
nine recessions, ten presidents: patches.
Each year another July flings her ribboned
hat into the ring, another summer trying to
duplicate ours. Who were we on that park
bench that defies being folded and put away?
Forget it. Are you still alive? The rest is gibberish.

Apollo Comes to Floyds Knob, Indiana

Only the lover is éntheos, says Plato.
Only the lover is full of god.
—Roberto Calasso

Everywhere is green—forest green,
moss, jungle, viridian. All Indiana
down to the Ohio, pushing against fences,
swelling with juice. A fat lady
taking up two seats on the airplane.

We used to be forest here
before the urge for acreage and the axe,
pickled beets and church on Sunday.
Forest, before there was a Sunday.
Even before God took off for Italy
to have His portrait painted.
And this year, despite what you’ve
read in the Kroger check-out line,
the news for the turn of the millennium
isn’t who flicked whom sideways
but that we’re being rained on,
flooded, snaked out. Green is in!
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d?
Mister, they’re eating up the house.

I tell you, Papa’s coming home.
He’s fed up writing prescriptions
and orders for the medium indifferent.
He’s bought himself a bank of clouds,
some killer luggage, and a watering can.
And no kicking the tires or shivering
prayer in a booth is going to stop him.

Before you know it, Sycamores will be
sawing through your floorboards. A Cedar
big as a myth will rise in your toilet.
And more White Pine, Scotch Pine, Loblolly
than you can count will crash out of your
closets, demanding your furniture back.
With no more TV’s, PC’s, plug-ins for
your little mouse, who knows what else?
You lose your job. Your son becomes
an English major, and your wife
of thirty-two years decides to throw away
all her clothes and frisk in a Laurel tree
naked, insisting she’ll not come down
until you learn Greek and climb up,
stripped, hot and hard again with love,
singing Orea Orea. Beautiful, beautiful.

You’re kidding you say. My wife,
Secretary of the Bridge Club, flashing
her puckered thighs and beckoning
like the Lorelei, bewitched in varicose
and droop?  Mister, just climb up.
Take your belly and bald head and climb
if only because she is ridiculous—
an old hen playing chickie on a balcony,
asking only that you rise like the Cypress
from your knees and clutch her to you
in all her bravery and redeeming foolishness.
Cradle her face the way you would
a crystal cup you could drink from
forever. Then hurl yourself for once
into your heart’s voice. The leaves around
your head will whisper what you need to say.

Alice Friman
from Vinculum, LSU Press, 2011