Thursday, September 24, 2009

Because It Has To Be This Way

Sometimes on days when I drive an hour listening to an audiobook and then teach two 1-hour-and-50-minute classes back to back and then drive an hour home listening to my audiobook some more, I get a headache from so many ideas and images crowding into my head; it starts to feel too full. It felt like that today.

So I was sitting in the parking lot of the kids' school with my full head and instead of resting it, I felt I had to put something more in there; I was reading through a volume of poems I'd brought with me (It is Daylight by Arda Collins). When I got to this one, I started laughing, because somehow it seemed like the perfect epigraph to my day (at only 2:45 pm):

Because It Has To Be This Way

It's been a while since I've been so
blah blah blah, he says.
Blah blah, she says.

She thinks that the universe is expanding like a giant lily.

You don't know
these people. They're off
in a little theater. The set
is a bedroom with a modest
bed on which they lie. It's
lit with a bedside
lamp and rhythmic night sounds
come in from the dark
all around. He sleeps on his back
with his hands folded
demurely, waiting
to be exported by great forces.
She wonders if somewhere
there is a lake made of melted butter.
Outside the dark
the sky is golden-clouded
like a bible illustration. Jesus is there.
He's white, with a
chestnut beard and soft, brown eyes.
He's wearing a white robe.
His wounds are no longer
bleeding. He's doing a peaceful
pantomime, standing in the air,
two feet above the ground. And you know
what? He's really nice, and he has no
sense of humor. Or if he does,
it would have to do with
smiling and petting a deer, and
you feel like you might like each other
at first, but
you wouldn't. Jesus is hovering
in a green pasture, like in a storybook,
the one about the Country Mouse and
the City Mouse, which had a lovely
picture of the Country Mouse running
away over the hills, the smokestacks
soon small behind. He lets you run
over the green hills, and you never get tired.
He reaches out one arm
with his palm upturned, and raises it
towards the pasture. He tilts his chin
to the golden sky, like he's
singing, and taps his foot,
which is bare. Jesus has long nail beds
and a hairy big toe. Below,
the universe is forming other universes.
Jesus is doing an experiment. He needs to expand
right now. They'll mainly be used for storage.

Why was this poem the perfect epigraph? It's about rising perspective--to me, the part where she thinks about what's outside the dark of the little theater is like when you lift your eyes from what you've been reading and thinking about and notice that there's a world out there with leaves in the underbrush turning red amid gold and purple and green, and that you've been kind of missing it, even while doing something like piloting two tons of metal at breakneck speed down crowded 2-lane highways crossing deer-filled fields.

The part about smiling and petting a deer struck me as almost unbearably comical, after yet another afternoon in my long line of years worrying about confronting the blood and guts of one stoving in the front of my car. The bucolic ideal met the physical reality of deer in my brain, and released some of the pressure. I could almost hear my radiator hissing. Now my car and brain are home, quietly ticking themselves into silence.

Do you ever get yourself so worked up that you need to switch gears to restore perspective? If you don't use poetry, what works best?

7 comments:

Christina Tarr said...

I like the lily and the shape of jesus's toes.

I do know what you mean, though.

Rohan Maitzen said...

Music--and I often call on it during just those waiting-in-the-car moments, when you know you are about to be beset by a whole new range of demands.

Jeanne said...

Christina, I'll bet most mothers of teenagers know what I mean!

Rohan, I can see how music would work, although it doesn't work for me in terms of switching gears--it usually puts my brain in an even higher gear. Then I have an entire symphony playing in the background!

Betty said...

Music.
I can't just be listening though, I have to be singing. The other day I felt like my head was going to explode, but after about 10 minutes of singing some old Frank Sinatra songs, everything seemed better. I'm not exactly sure why it works, but my mood always elevates and I feel more focused and in control.

Anonymous said...

Great opening lines

Am I allowed to say that stroking my dog's head pulls me down from whatever frenzy I might be in, at least for a few moments?

-lemming

Jeanne said...

Betty, oh yes, singing sometimes does work for me, too. Pretty much has to be showtunes. My favorite number is Winifred's song about coming from the swamp in Once Upon a Mattress.

Lemming, yes, you're allowed. Your dog is rather calming. I don't have that reaction to dogs in general.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

I felt exactly the same way after my intense week thinking about food and food writing. I'm not sure what the antidote is since my brain still feels full, but I like the idea of poetry.