Saturday, March 15, 2014

March 15: Gratitude Number Eleven, Thought of Death, Jeffrey McDaniel, "The Grudge," New Cartoon

Twilight settled over Zuckerman's barn, and a feeling of peace.  Fern knew it was almost suppertime but she couldn't bear to leave.  Swallow's passed on silent wings, in and out of the doorways, bringing food to their young ones.  From across the road a bird sang "Whippoorwill, whippoorwill!"  Lurvy sat down under an apple tree and lit his pipe; the animals sniffed the familiar smell of strong tobacco.  Wilbur heard the trill of the tree toad and the occasional slamming of the kitchen door.  All these sounds made him feel comfortable and happy, for he loved life and loved to be a part of the world on a summer evening.  But as he lay there he remembered what the old sheep had told him.  The thought of death came to him and he began to tremble with fear.

I love this little paragraph from Charlotte's Web.  It contains so much quiet contentment.  The swallows, tree toad.  The slamming of the kitchen door.  A summer twilight on a farm.  It almost makes me want to live on a farm, if it weren't for the smell of manure.  And the bugs.  And getting up at dawn to milk cows and collect eggs and whatever other farm chores exist.  The last few lines in the paragraph, however, are tinged with unhappiness and fear.  Its emotional landscape completely changes in the space of two sentences.

Today, I am grateful for the calm of Saturday morning.  This morning, I slept in until 7:30 a.m.  Then I got dressed, went outside, and shoveled for a half hour.  It was so beautiful and quiet.  The snow was feathery, almost weightless.  The sky, white and  smooth as bed sheets on a clothesline.  As I worked, I actually found myself whistling a few times.  It was a wonderful time.

Yet, my contentment was colored by worry.  It came on suddenly, as it does for Wilbur in the above paragraph.  And then, for a few moments, I stood paralyzed and anxious over the future.  It's so easy to give in to negative emotions.  Wallow in them.  I've been in that place so much recently that I should forward my mail to it.

This morning, I pulled myself back.  I didn't want to be sad all day long.  It's so easy to feed those kinds of emotions.  Things can grow in darkness as well as light.  Mushrooms and mold.  Anger and disappointment.

The poem I have for you tonight is about this subject.  It's by Jeffrey McDaniel and was published in The Best American Poetry 2010.  In his discussion of the poem, McDaniel says, "In [this poem], the resentment only seduces and harms the speaker, which has been my personal experience with resentment.  Hence the adage:  pissing on your own leg and expecting someone else to get wet."

Oh, and Saint Marty is grateful for the pizza he had tonight.

The Grudge

I watered the grudge,
not with the fervent devotion
of a nun clutching rosary beads,
not with the destructive clockwork
of a drunk spilling vodka
tumblers on the cactus erupting
through his heart, but I watered it,
went out there at midnight,
with a can of spittle, moon dangling
like a lightbulb from its frail cord,
and I dripped the dark
nourishing fluid into its roots,
my face pulsing like blister
as the venom petals bloomed.

Confessions of Saint Marty


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