Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day

Hammocked again. Reading my former teacher, Donald Hall. Remembering. Discovering. His latest memoir. His latest poems. Listening to his voice again after. Oh. More than 30 years. On the CD in the sleeve in the back of his book of poems.

Another of my congress. Encouraging. Discouraging. Judging. Living his life away, quickly, in the time it takes to read these books, in part. Ambition on display. Love. Devotion. Grief. Fear. Courage. Concupiscense. An aesthetic of work. A work of aesthetics. A life work. A premise. An hypothesis. An assertion. Another deciduous story. Another story that renews itself. Refreshes itself. As he moves forward, poem after poem, memoir after memoir, lover after lover.

From a young age, there are his children. Grandchildren now. His poems. His many friends from his many years here and there who still survive. A generous person who has gathered many to him through his joy, his care, and his liveliness. Through his years.

Each day, as he describes, begins with work on his poems. Then other work. Other freelance and other prose work as the day progresses. With other pleasures coming later in the day. Usually.

Almost 80, his days mostly written now, he tells the story of being picked up for DWO. Driving While Old. Handcuffed. Taken to jail. Etcetera. A lovely story.

In and out of Faith. Less interested since his wife died of leukemia a decade ago. Yet one does understand an underlying faithfulness that is quite profound, one that adheres to the truth in words. To the power and the mystery of words. To the remarkable purposes words take for themselves as we daily spin them out. Purposes that are both concealing and revealing and that are ultimately making, and creating, and underlying, and loving. That are enlivening. At least, in his aesthetic. His life work. His making. Words that come against falsehood. And death. And despair. And destruction.

Words that affirm. Words that open up the possibility again. For what it means to be human. Words that assert our redemption in love and honesty and courage and discipline and work. Hard word. Heart work. Mind work. Spirit work. All of these inextricably bound up in words and our use of words. In how we live our lives. Because our lives and our words are of a piece. Are mutually contingent. Interpenetrate. What we know and what we love and who we are and what we do are all mediated by, defined by, informed by, felt by, and understood by words. Our words. Others’ words.

Words. The medium of communication. The method of connection. The fundamental means of intimacy. Of understanding. Words. The work of our maker. The means of our making. Words. The foundation of what we know of our maker. The Bible is only a pile of words after all. Being made in God’s image simply means—before all other meanings—that we use words to know him and one another. Love him and one another. As he has loved us by giving us his words. His Word. His meaning.

And so this teacher of mine. This fine teacher and poet. Donald Hall. Someone who relatively early got me to pay attention. Who opened my ears to words. As several of us fortunate ones drank beer with him in the Rathskeller. An Ann Arbor drinking establishment. And read poetry. Talked about poems. The beer, the color of amber. A preserving substance. As we wandered the universe. The one verse. Opened up by words’ purest form. Poetry. The world and what it contains made possibly beautiful. Made possibly whole. Made possibly well. Possibly euphonious. Even in its cacophony. Even in its disease. In its fragmentation. Its ugliness.

Poetry. The woman by the well at the heart of the world, drawing water. Pouring water. Sweet water. A water that is nourishment to the soul. And she pours it for all. All day and all night. The sweetness of this water, a daily delight.

And here I am. Hammocked, as I say. Swinging in this rope cradle regarding the world out here. Recollecting my congress. Drinking my water. As the sun arcs overhead. And the days spin. And spin. And the oak and the maple out back and overhead begin to dry. The leaves darken. And the acorns start to fall.

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