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Complacencies, writing, Burbank and stoplights : To Lueza

Posted Oct 02 2012 10:00am


I sat at a stoplight the other afternoon in Burbank, the sun going down. The light stayed red for some time and when it turned green the cars ahead shot through in a strange syncopation, one black, one white, a chaotic (coming straight at me) yet ordered (they missed me with precision) checkerboard. A plane slanted through the sky, impossible, the traffic light dangled and when I remembered to press the pedal to move, I imagined my car lifting up over the line ahead, the white turned to metallic shimmer, needle nose forward. Someone slammed a car horn, and my foot responded, the setting sun slanted its light, loud and insistent, and I was in my car, the sky ahead blue and clear.

Does a writer ever have unprocessed experience? That's what I'm thinking about this morning -- the ability to make narrative as things unfold, something more than note-taking and less than creation, the spinning of story and the making things up as one goes, the complacencies of the peignoir, the green freedom of a cockatoo (no green cockatoo exists in nature), Lueza's eighteenth birthday (she is not here) and these two verses from a poem by Wallace Stevens

1

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.

2

Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herselfPassions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul. 


from Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)
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