Tuesday, January 5, 2016

January 5: Healthy Poverty, Pennies, Poet of the Week, Kim Addonizio, "Salmon"

It is still the first week in January, and I've got great plans.  I've been thinking about seeing.  There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises.  The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.  But--and this is the point--who gets excited by a mere penny?  If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way?  It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won't stoop to pick up a penny.  But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.  It is that simple.  What you see is what you get.

It is the beginning of a new year for Annie Dillard.  The start of something new, an infinite line of unopened experiences stretching into the future.  She compares these experiences to pennies.  Some people see pennies on a sidewalk and keep walking, because those little pieces of copper aren't worth the effort of stopping, bending down, collecting.  Other people greet each found penny with delight, like flakes of gold or shards of jade.  It's all about living a life of simplicity, where each penny is a treasure, a crown jewel.

This morning, after my kids went to school, I went back to bed.  I was planning on sleeping for another hour or so.  I woke up at 11 a.m.  The sun was creeping under the curtains, and I felt more rested and refreshed than I have in months.  Normally, if I sleep late, I have this sense of urgency, like I've just wasted precious hours of productivity.

I am a list-maker.  Every morning, I make a list of things I need to accomplish.  Phone calls to make.  Books to read.  Essays to grade.  Food to prepare.  Rooms to clean.  That's usually my life.  An endless list of to-do's.  At the end of a day, my fulfillment comes from check marks.  If every item on the day's list is checked, I have had a good day.

Today, my penny was not having a list.  It was feeling rested instead of exhausted.  After I got up, I went out to lunch with my wife.  I had a glass of blackberry sangria with my meal.  When I left the restaurant, I was completely relaxed.  Yes, I had to pick up my son at school, but there was no rush.

My whole day was like that.  Unhurried.  Calm.  I didn't let anything disturb my peace of mind.  After I'm done typing this post, I may take a nap before I go to bed.  Or I may read a book that I've been wanting to read.  Have a drink.  There are pennies all around me.

Kim Addonizio is the Poet of the Week.  She is a poet who constantly surprises me, by her subject matter and imagery.  By the fact that she will write about anything and make it beautiful.  I have a feeling she doesn't walk by any penny she sees on the sidewalk.

Saint Marty's going to make himself some hot chocolate and Bailey's Irish Cream now.


by:  Kim Addonizio

In this shallow creek
they flop and writhe forward as the dead
float back toward them. Oh, I know

what I should say: fierce burning in the body
as her eggs burst free, milky cloud
of sperm as he quickens them. I should stand

on the bridge with my camera,
frame the white froth of rapids where one
arcs up for an instant in its final grace.

But I have to go down among
the rocks the glacier left
and squat at the edge of the water

where a stinking pile of them lies,
where one crow balances and sinks
its beak into a gelid eye.

I have to study the small holes
gouged into their skin, their useless gills,
their gowns of black flies. I can't

make them sing. I want to,
but all they do is open
their mouths a little wider

so the water pours in
until I feel like I'm drowning.
On the bridge the tour bus waits

and someone waves, and calls down
It's time, and the current keeps lifting
dirt from the bottom to cover the eggs.

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