Thursday, December 20, 2007
Tear-Water Tea From Poetry
One of my favorite reading pleasures is the children's series consisting of Frog and Toad Together, and Owl (alone) by Arnold Lobel.
I never read them as a kid but as a grown-up father to my daughter Laurel; no matter, I can pick up one now on my own and while away the contented....minutes!
Owl at Home consists of 5 stories featuring the logically challenged, somewhat obsessive homebody, Owl. I especially like the one entitled "Tear-Water Tea". On a frosty night, Owl gets a hankering for tear-water tea; but to get it he must provide his own tears. So he thinks of sad things like "mashed potatoes left on a plate because nobody ate them.", "a beautiful morning that nobody saw because they were sleeping." and, for me, the topper: "spoons that have fallen behind a stove and are never seen again." Eventually, Owl works up enough tears to get a decent batch which is then boiled and enjoyed in quiet contentment.
While at my day job at the library in the periodical section, I often am reminded of the "spoons fallen behind the stove" but in my version it's "literary or poetry journals that never get read because most people prefer to read about Britney's twisted childhood in US Weekly and the like, while waiting to get on a computer.". So I take it upon myself to peak into them whenever I can and read at least one poem all the way through.
Tuesday i found this poem by Tony Hoagland in the November "Tri-Quarterly". As a jazz musician and lover of words and (reasonably) accessible poems, i thought this to be a find. It also has some invisible, etheric thread of relation to Tear-Water Tea!
I was driving home that afternoon
in some dilated condition of sensitivity
of the kind known only to certain heroic poets
and more or less almost everybody else
the sun of the six pm glaring orangely through the trees
as through the bars of some kind of cage
and the poor citizens of Pecore Street waiting for the bus
with their sorrowful posture and bad feet-
I admit when I'm in one of those moods I find it
a little too easy to believe the trees are suffering
to see the twisted branches as arthritic hands,
and the Spanish moss dripping from their scabby limbs
as parasitic bunting.
Someone had given me a jazz CD
he had thought I would enjoy
but the song unfurling on the stereo that day,
it seemed a kind of torture music,
played by wildly unhappy musicians
on instruments that had been bent in shipping,
then harnessed by some masochist composer
for an experiment on the nature of obstruction.
But of all the shrieking horns and drums
it was the passionate effort of a certain defective trumpet
to escape from its predetermined plot
that seemed to be telling a story that I knew:
veering back and forth, banging off walls,
dripping a trail of blood
until finally it shattered through a window and disappeared.
For some reason I didn't understand,
it had to suffer before it was allowed to rest.
It was permitted to rest before being recaptured.
That was part of the composition.
That was the only kind of feedom
we were ever going to know.