Sunday, February 15, 2015

Another gray day

Rest in Peace, Philip. Your work here is done, well done.

Philip Levine was a Pulitzer prize winning former U.S. poet laureate, whose poetry has been linked to and cited several times on My Minnesota. He wrote about Americans when we were world leaders in manufacturing real, durable goods and not just vaporous virtual reality. His poem, What Work Is, captures the intensity and ambiguity of work, family, and the passions to which we humans are prone. I have read that he did not suffer fools and have been told I share a similar character trait. Sometimes, I'm outrageously pleased with the company I get to keep, no matter how tenuous the association. As Detroit slowly returns to life, I hope someone there channels Philip's spirit and talent to capture it.

a gray mid-Winter day
a gray mid-Winter day
Photo by J. Harrington

In the midst of another cold, cloudy, depressing (see above) mid-Winter Minnesota day, the dogs look bored, frustrated and cabin fevered as much as their owners, possibly more. I still haven't figured out how best to balance not wishing my life away and wishing it were Spring or early Summer. Several of the folks I follow on Twitter have been sharing photos of crocuses starting to bloom and other signs of a world that is greening up. The extended local weather forecast is dominated by below average temperatures. Below average in February, in Minnesota, is cold, not Polar Vortex cold, but cold enough to take much of the fun out of being outside. The good new is we aren't getting buried in a never-ending blizzard like the East Coast. The bad news is the snow cover isn't really enough to support snow shoeing, cross-country skiing or sledding. As of today, I think I'm dropping "global warming" from my vocabulary. As far as I can see, we're clearly experiencing climate change brought on by Anthropogenic Climate Disruption. Winters in Minnesota show little sign of warming.

Burial Rites

By Philip Levine 
Everyone comes back here to die
as I will soon. The place feels right
since it’s half dead to begin with.
Even on a rare morning of rain,
like this morning, with the low sky
hoarding its riches except for
a few mock tears, the hard ground
accepts nothing. Six years ago
I buried my mother’s ashes
beside a young lilac that’s now
taller than I, and stuck the stub
of a rosebush into her dirt,
where like everything else not
human it thrives. The small blossoms
never unfurl; whatever they know
they keep to themselves until
a morning rain or a night wind
pares the petals down to nothing.
Even the neighbor cat who shits
daily on the paths and then hides
deep in the jungle of the weeds
refuses to purr. Whatever’s here
is just here, and nowhere else,
so it’s right to end up beside
the woman who bore me, to shovel
into the dirt whatever’s left
and leave only a name for some-
one who wants it. Think of it,
my name, no longer a portion
of me, no longer inflated
or bruised, no longer stewing
in a rich compost of memory
or the simpler one of bone shards,
dirt, kitty litter, wood ashes,
the roots of the eucalyptus
I planted in ’73,
a tiny me taking nothing,
giving nothing, and free at last.


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