Edith Tiempo passed away yesterday. She was 92. I feel a strange kind of sadness. I will never meet her. I won’t pretend how much an impact she has made on my life — I didn’t go to the workshop, I wasn’t one of them. But one of her poems has been with me since I was twelve. She has my heart. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to thank her enough.
Near the Wall of a House
Near the wall of a house painted
to look like stone,
I saw visions of God.
A sleepless night that gives others a headache
gave me flowers
opening beautifully inside my brain.
And he who was lost like a dog
will be found like a human being
and brought back home again.
Love is not the last room: there are others
after it, the whole length of the corridor
that has no end.
Today looks good: a bit of work, a bit of reading, a bit of sleeping, a bit of writing. Life’s good.
Half the People in the World
Half the people in the world
love the other half,
half the people
hate the other half.
Must I because of this half and that half
go wandering and changing ceaselessly
like rain in its cycle,
must I sleep among rocks,
and grow rugged like the trunks of olive trees,
and hear the moon barking at me,
and camouflage my love with worries,
and sprout like frightened grass between the railroad tracks,
and live underground like a mole,
and remain with roots and not with branches,
and not feel my cheek against the cheek of angels,
and love in the first cave,
and marry my wife beneath a canopy
of beams that support the earth,
and act out my death, always
till the last breath and the last
words and without ever understanding,
and put flagpoles on top of my house
and a bomb shelter underneath. And go out on roads
made only for returning and go through
all the appalling stations—
cat, stick, fire, water, butcher,
between the kid and the angel of death?
Half the people love,
half the people hate.
And where is my place between such well-matched halves,
and through what crack will I
see the white housing projects of my dreams
and the barefoot runners on the sands
or, at least, the waving kerchief
of a girl, beside the ancient hill?
A pity. That’s what it comes down to. An unfortunate development. I remember Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a brave woman, who flew all over the world, holding her heart in her hands:
“…For Sayonara, literally translated, ‘Since it must be so,’ of all the good-bys I have heard is the most beautiful. Unlike Auf Wiedersehens and Au revoirs, it does not try to cheat itself by any bravado ”Til we meet again,’ any sedative to postpone the pain of separation. It does not evade the issue like the sturdy blinking Farewell. Farewell is a father’s good-by. It is—‘Go out into the world and do well, my son.’ It is encouragement and admonition. It is hope and faith. But it passes over the significance of the moment; of parting it says nothing. It hides its emotion. It says too little. While Good-by (‘God be with you’) and Adios say too much. They try to bridge the distance, almost to deny it. Good-by is a prayer, a ringing cry. ‘You must not go—I cannot bear to have you go! But you shall not go alone, unwatched. God will be with you. God’s hand will be over you’ and even—underneath, hidden, but it is there, incorrigible—‘I will be with you; I will watch you—always.’ It is a mother’s good-by. But Sayonara says neither too much nor too little. It is a simple acceptance of fact. All understanding of life lies in its limits. All emotion, smoldering, is banked up behind it. But it says nothing. It is really the unspoken good-by, the pressure of a hand, ‘Sayonara.'” (•)
The pressure of a hand. Your hand, on the small of my back. A pity. Goodbye.
A Pity. We Were Such a Good Invention
Your thighs off my hips.
As far as I’m concerned
They are all surgeons. All of them.
They dismantled us
Each from the other.
As far as I’m concerned
They are all engineers. All of them.
A pity. We were such a good
And loving invention.
An aeroplane made from a man and wife.
Wings and everything.
We hovered a little above the earth.
We even flew a little.
Sick as a wet dog, and I don’t even know if that made sense. My headache’s worse. As always there is work to do. Dear self: you will definitely take some time off later this year. For now: carry on.
A Quiet Joy
I’m standing in a place where I once loved.
The rain is falling. The rain is my home.
I think words of longing: a landscape
out to the very edge of what’s possible.
I remember you waving your hand
as if wiping mist from the windowpane,
and your face, as if enlarged
from an old blurred photo.
Once I committed a terrible wrong
to myself and others.
But the world is beautifully made for doing good
and for resting, like a park bench.
And late in life I discovered
a quiet joy
like a serious disease that’s discovered too late:
just a little time left now for quiet joy.