A friend recently introduced a poet who was entirely new to me, a poet with whom I felt an immediate affinity. When this happens, it's as though I've been given a delicious, but temporary secret which must be held and cherished for a while before sharing. I think it's time.
The poet, Max Garland, arrived in this world via Kentucky, where he spent fifteen years as a rural mail carrier. Perhaps this spoke to me, in part, because my grandfather, Moses, who raised sheep, was also a rural mail carrier, although a couple of generations earlier. It seems we are arriving at a time when both writing and distributing letters is coming to an end. I wish it were not so, but life goes on and now I wouldn't want to live without the immediacy of email. So, a price is sometimes paid, a new way emerges and we become accustomed.
Max is now living and teaching in Wisconsin, and is the poet laureate of that state. He has two books of poetry published, which I have on the table next to me. I read from them a little each day, lingering over each line, sometimes each word, as I recall days so similar in their nature that I could be reading from my own diaries or journals.
It's been difficult for me to choose the right poem to share here, as I know you would like so many of them, but just this morning I ran across this poem and knew it was the one. I was reminded of my grandfather and a particular day when I was very young. We walked down the cow path in our pasture to where the raspberries grew, wild and untended, ripe and ready. I recall sawdust on the ground from an old sawmill, the sun shining brightly, my grandfather bent towards the vines, filling his bucket with sweetness. There was a sense of enduring goodness, and I'm happy to say strawberries and raspberries still fill my summer days...
Now, I'll be quiet and let you read.
~ for Rayford Simmons
Whatever is truly delicious
according to a local Baptist proverb.
Whatever bides its life
under the leaves, patiently
undoing the bitter
green knot of itself, swelling outward,
deepening, reddening. Whatever ripens
in the sun, shaping itself
into a tiny version of the heart,
the sweetness at a berry's core
leaking slowly through the flesh.
We had nearly a half-acre to pick,
my grandfather and I, crawling
or stooping through the long rows.
Not much passing between us --
the faint snapping of the fruit
from the stem, the occasional
judgment of cigar smoke
trailing back to where I lagged,
knees stained almost to blossoms; the low vines
teaching the body to bend. The arc
of my grandfather's back, for example,
repeated the story of strawberry gathering,
spring after spring. Whatever is delicious
draws the man from the body, is the proverb,
coaxing the long, elderly nerve
through all the meandering hoops
of the spine. Until
after a while, my grandfather
thought it would be a good idea
to rest there. He thought
it would be a good idea to lie down
among the berries. According
to the Baptists, whatever it is
invites us, can almost taste us
near the end. He thought
it would be a good idea to sleep
down in the cool shadows
of the berry vines. Just for a while,
my grandfather thought. Just until
his mind was sweetness.
Just until his body was straw.
~ Max Garland, The Postal Confessions
On my other blog, teresaevangelinespoetry.blogspot.com , I've posted a micropoem, one I wrote a few months ago, that seems to dovetail nicely with this post. I hope you'll visit me there...