This month, I’m writing words and posting images relating to the landscape of memory. I hope to write poems most days and also share photos, quotes, and more prosaic thoughts related in some way to memory, nostalgia, longing for place, remembering and forgetting, landscape, dreamscape, landscape’s memory and memory’s landscape, the intersection of the layered historical physical world with personal memory, the frames that both landscape and memory use to contain and order our focus, the landscape of childhood, the landscape of devastation, how memories lie and tell the truth, the fragmentation of memory, how landscapes shape us and our memories, and so on. All the posts will be linked to the Introductory Page as they are posted. Thanks for visiting.
Today, a poem.
There’s really nothing better on any earth
than waking up adrift from dreams in a rented condo
across the slow street from the ocean,
the southern wild ocean, remembering how to use
the ungainly electric stove to make water boil, jasmine tea
brought from New Hampshire, instant grits from the nearby Publix,
puttering and knowing like a savoured secret that the whole day
stretches languidly, nothing planned but everything that’s specific
and interesting waiting to be seen and surveyed.
The anticipation of that day spreads out like
a pink glow. The ritual checking of the tides, the weather,
the pull of the blood, this is what matters now.
Opening the borrowed door unannounced, incognito,
inhaling the scent, absorbing the heat, the seabreeze,
the drenching rain, taking its measure, whatever it is that lingers,
beckons, occurs, and the rusty croaking of grackles,
already involved in the flourishing day.
Each morning, climbing onto ungeared rented bikes,
ours all week, shambling, slow-pedalling,
now and again tearing off to any place, literally any place
within the ten square island miles,
whether it’s sidewalk or woods,
boardwalk bridge or sandy bike path,
the perfectly sized adventure.
Short cuts learned over years,
quick trips for postcards and more cheese, most of the day scouting:
the possibility of rummaging snakes and gators,
the overhead threat of orb weaver spiders and wishing
you were the sort of person to wear a hat, and you could be,
it seems so believable. A surprise of stinkhorns,
beloved pines and oaks ungreeted yet this year,
gulf fritillaries and giant swallowtails,
side-skittering ghost crabs, a line of transiting pelicans,
all the particular unforgettables, indispensable,
indifferent and immersed in realms their own,
the subtropical squandered lush of green tendrils and
boughs twisted, tangled, profusion of palm, fern, holly, monstrous vines,
and the grasses — reddish muhley, quaking, panic, switch, plume —
these swaying, rustling, seductive blades that tickle
every sweet spot on our uncommonly easeful bodies
soaking in sun, rain, the tide’s own tempo.
Before I’m ready, and I’m never ready,
the idle days end,
condo and bikes are relinquished,
surrendered to those who come next,
while I move farther and farther north,
undetected by the moon though my eyes are awash
with the luminous brightness of shorebirds,
the gleaming curves of beach extending to sea,
storms and waves rolling in, dilatory shrimp boats bobbing;
and on my phone, all year long, one button to press
for each day’s tides on the absent island.
Featured image: St. Andrews Beach, Jekyll Island, GA, 5:30 p.m., 21 Nov. 2018