Monday, May 18, 2009

A Color of the Sky

I've been sicker than I can remember being for a long time, and it was just not going away. Finally on Saturday I felt so much worse I drove myself 45 minutes south to the nearest Urgent Care and came home with antibiotics, albuterol puffer, and a magic remedy that paralyzes my cough reflex long enough for me to get some sleep. (Readers, please note the irony of the puffer, in light of my recent shelving of the kids' nebulizer.) I think I didn't take being sick as seriously as I might have in January or February because, look, it's May. The yellow and orange azaleas are in flagrant, extravagant bloom in my backyard. The rhododendrons are opening up from their deep, deep red. The sun is shining. How could anything be that wrong? Until I got to where I couldn't do anything except cough. I have a mostly uncontrollable, sound-barrier-breaking cough that makes cats leap off my lap in alarm. It makes people move away from me, when I'm around any. Mostly I've been driving, to class and out on unavoidable errands. My cough also alarmed my students...they hope it wasn't the swine flu. Not that the Urgent Care center tested me for it. I'm hoping that my general dullness of mind hasn't been too noticeable. My brain feels shaken up in there; my head hurts and I've pulled my shoulder from coughing. And I'm not even going to tell you what a trial it is to cough this hard at this particular time of the month.

Now this morning is another absolutely glorious, if chilly for May, sunlit-blossom-morning. Here's the poem that fits my mood, "A Color of the Sky" by Tony Hoagland:

Windy today and I feel less than brilliant,
driving over the hills from work.
There are the dark parts on the road
when you pass through clumps of wood
and the bright spots where you have a view of the ocean,
but that doesn't make the road an allegory.

I should call Marie and apologize
for being so boring at dinner last night,
but can I really promise not to be that way again?
And anyway, I'd rather watch the trees, tossing
in what certainly looks like sexual arousal.

Otherwise it's spring, and everything looks frail;
the sky is baby blue, and the just-unfurling leaves
are full of infant chlorophyll,
the very tint of inexperience.

Last summer's song is making a comeback on the radio,
and on the highway overpass,
the only metaphysical vandal in America has written
in big black spraypaint letters,

which makes us wonder if Time loves Memory back.

Last night I dreamed of X again.
She's like a stain on my subconscious sheets.
Years ago she penetrated me
but though I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed,
I never got her out,
but now I'm glad.

What I thought was an end turned out to be a middle.
What I thought was a brick wall turned out to be a tunnel.
What I thought was an injustice
turned out to be a color of the sky.

Outside the youth center, between the liquor store
and the police station,
a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;

overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,

dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

so Nature's wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It's been doing that all week:
making beauty
and throwing it away,
and making more.

I love the kind of peaceful, surreal mood of that poem, and the way little is what is seems--"what I thought was an injustice" (like being sick this time of year) "turned out to be a color of the sky," maybe something I wouldn't ordinarily notice so much except when I'm flat on my back!

And I love the "metaphysical vandal." It reminds me of the perennially spray-painted overpass on the Washington D.C. beltway that said "Surrender Dorothy" right before the Mormon temple which looks, in all its white and rising glory, a little like the outline of the castle of the wicked witch of the west. When you think about it.

Seen any good graffiti in your travels lately?


FreshHell said...

I hope you're feeling better. The worse sinus infection I ever had (couple of years ago) was during the summer. Latched on in July and carried me through August. Finally ended up on some harrowing antibiotics that slowly cleared it up.

Jeanne said...

FreshHell: "harrowing" --oh, yes. Just the word for it.

Anna said...

Hope you feel better soon!

Diary of an Eccentric

FreshHell said...

Cure was almost worse than the illness. But, it did the job.