Thursday, January 21, 2016

January 21: Brome, Finding Your Brigadoon, Terry Godbey, "Poison"

I am absolutely alone.  There are no other customers.  The road is vacant, the interstate is out of sight and earshot.  I have hazarded into a new corner of the world, an unknown spot, a Brigadoon.  Before me extends a low hill trembling in yellow brome, and behind the hill, filling the sky, rises an enormous mountain ridge, forested, alive and awesome with brilliant blown lights.  I have never seen anything so tremulous and live.  Overhead, great strips and chunks of cloud dash to the northwest in a gold rush.  At my back the sun is setting--how can I not have noticed before that the sun is setting?  My mind has been a blank slab of black asphalt for hours, but that doesn't stop the sun's wild wheel.  I set my coffee beside me on the curb; I smell loam on the wind; I pat the puppy; I watch the mountains.

I had no idea idea what "brome" was when I first read this paragraph.  It's not an everyday word.  In fact, if I tried to use it in a conversation tomorrow, I would be, like Dillard, absolutely alone, the subject of blank stares and confused smiles.  Dillard is contemplating the state of aloneness.  She has purposely driven into her own private Brigadoon, a place in time that is timeless.  And she finds herself untethered in her isolation.  (By the way, "brome" is a kind of decorative grass.)

During my work days, I frequently experience this same feeling of alienation.  In the medical office, I am the odd man out (literally--I am one of two men in an office of close to 40 employees).  On top of my gender, I'm a poet and college professor.  None of my coworkers share my love for the written word.  At the last medical office in which I worked, I had coworkers who read the same books I read, listened to my poems.  They got me.  I don't get "got" very much on a daily basis anymore.

Of course, aloneness is not always negative.  In fact, after a long day of answering phones, registering patients, teaching classes, I welcome the silence of an empty house.  For instance, today was insanely busy at the medical office.  When I clocked out this afternoon, I was ready to join a Trappist monastery and take a vow of silence.

That is why I write.  It's about meditation and inspiration.  Time outside of time.  It's also about being comfortable with yourself.  Finding your own Brigadoon.  (If you are not familiar with the story of Brigadoon, it is about a small Scottish village that appears for one day every one hundred years.  Brigadoon's citizens exist outside of time and place, in a state of mythic isolation.)

All artists require a certain amount of Brigadoon in their lives.  Creation is a solitary, not communal, act.  I find myself a little too crowded most days to think about writing a poem or story or essay.  Tonight, when I fall asleep, I'm not going to dream of the misty highlands of Scotland.  I'm going to dream of ringing phones and voices.  Piercing and insistent.

That monastery is sounding better and better to Saint Marty

A little poem about being alone among people...


by:  Terry Godbey

My grandmother, a wisecracker,
burned brightly at the head of the table
on our summer visits.
My parents blistered and turned away,
missing her winks as she wagged
her tongue at my mother
and called my father
by his last name.

I indulged her with endless games
of cards, sneaking sips of beer,
taking the dollar bills
and diamond ring she slipped me.
My parents' anger oozed and we'd leave
before her ginger cookies ran out.
All the long drive home
I was the outcast.
We should have left you there.

Now I stand beside her
and pat her cold hand.
I've never seen her quiet before,
believe it cannot last.
I'm not moving until she does.
But my parents, staring
at their shoes, insist it's time to go.

We drive straight to a seaside park
where raspberries grow wild.
"Those could be poison,"
warns my mother.
But I ignore her,
fill my mouth with fruit
and give up my grandmother
as the berries give up
their skins.  I smash them
between my teeth,
one after another,
swallow hard
and choke it all down.

God worked alone, too

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