Monday, April 6, 2009

I Have News for You

I am a person who likes drama. I used to like storms, before I moved to a rural area where electricity is evidently hard to sustain. I like exaggerated gestures and vacations with something exciting to do every moment. I like The Reduced Shakespeare Company, because watching them makes me laugh so hard my stomach hurts.

Sometimes I try to imitate people who are calm and cool and laid-back about things. Yeah, we'll do that when we get to it, I think. And the next minute I'm up and racing around, yelling "it's time! We're going to be late!"

And sometimes I try to imitate people who accept the world at face value, and who try to say what they mean, as if I hadn't been reared by people who always asked me to go in the kitchen and get them a glass of water when the conversation went above my head, people who will sit silently in the dining room, like Pearl Tull in Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, and wait for someone to notice they want the butter passed.

These are just some of the reasons I love this poem, I Have News for You, by Tony Hoagland, sent to me by my friend Laura (who can see the whole story of a childhood in her first glance at a broken playground swing):

There are people who do not see a broken playground swing
as a symbol of ruined childhood

and there are people who don't interpret the behavior
of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.

There are people who don't walk past an empty swimming pool
and think about past pleasures irrecoverable

and then stand there blocking the sidewalk for other pedestrians.
I have read about a town somewhere in California where human beings

do not send their tuberous feeder roots
deep into the potting soil of others' emotional lives

as if they were greedy six-year-olds
sucking the last half inch of milkshake up through a noisy straw;

and other persons in the Midwest who can kiss without
unpacking the imperialist baggage of heterosexuality.

Do you see that creamy, lemon-yellow moon?
There are some people, unlike me and you,

who do not yearn after love or fame or quantities of money as
unattainable as that moon;

Thus, they do not later
have to waste more time
defaming the object of their former ardor.

Or consequently run and crucify themselves
in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.

I have news for you:
there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room

and open a window to let the sweet breeze in
and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies.

Don't you like the way the ending of the poem suggests the old story about the person who turns on the weather to see what it's like outside, and the other person who says to just go and open the door?

I'll bet "people who get up in the morning and cross a room/and open a window to let the sweet breeze in" are calmer partly because they live in a better climate. (It's going to snow here today! Aaurgh! Will it stick? Will I make it through my commute tomorrow morning?) And I'll bet those calmer people don't spend too much of their time writing little updates on Facebook or Twitter.

Anyway, what do those folks who update that they're feeling sick want from me? A dictionary? A link to a sad violin solo? Me boarding an airplane feeling like Beth March, with a pot of chicken soup? Is it a matter of life and death? Is it already too late? Aaahh!


Harriet said...

I like this, although I spent some time wondering which side of the divide I fell on and I decided the answer was it depends. I particularly like the regional mapping. It makes the poem for me, as if such individuals are so rare as to merit a pinpoint on some map of their existence, like alien abductions or yeti sightings.

Cschu said...

I really live on the opposite side of the divide from this poem. I have realized over time that the random things in my surroundings often just don't "penetrate." Not that I don't love a great view, but I am not someone who can just sit still for a long time and take in the things around me. I am almost always just living in my head. I do not necessarily consider this a good thing, but there it is.

Jeanne said...

Harriet, good point about the regional mapping--and I missed that, because to me, such people are as common as, well, dirt!
Cschu, you and my husband live in your heads. But I occasionally share a glance with your husband when we notice the broken swing, the sound of the fly, the spider corpses at the bottom of the East Texas swimming pool....