Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Sky from Here to Marfa

Although it's been a while since I've had time to write much more than posts to this blog, things have finally settled down enough, or I've been desperate enough, that I have made time to dive into some good books. One of the volumes I've enjoyed is a new book of poems by Linda Gregg (Graywolf Press) entitled, “In the Middle Distance.” I took a workshop with Linda in the early 90’s at the University of Houston and it has been a while since I’ve read her work. I keep coming back to this poem called “Marfa”, maybe because I'm homesick, and rereading these lines in particular:

...I keep thinking that if I go
alone into the size of this silence, we can
straighten things out. To know what to question,
and what to believe. How to let my heart
split open. To print in clear light
the changing register of this grand world.

I think coming here, stripped of all places and people familiar, we’ve entered another kind of silence. A certain conversation has not yet started. In some sense, I am still peeping out at this landscape from a train window, not quite knowing how to enter it.

This weekend we drove country lanes and rambled past old and tiny towns and silent prairies. Sometimes a small town had a cafe of some sort and sometimes, actually once, the cafe was open. Cafe meaning a little four table room with hand sewn potholders and kitchen mitts for sale adorning every inch of the wall, serving tuna and pimento cheese sandwiches, iced tea, and coconut, apple, pecan and lemon pies baked that morning, the sewing machine idle in the corner. The town was old, the people were old and the landscape we traversed seemed suspended in time, like a nineteenth century American pastoral painting, despite the appearance of the occasional modern (somewhat) signage or building. Had I been only a tourist, I would have found the scenes charming and sweet with nostalgia. Being now a local to these parts, I feel a certain displacement. Only time can bestow belonging though this is now my home. So I’ve encountered a certain quiet, an absence of familiar chatter from my surroundings, which seems an apt place to investigate the changing register of this world and to entertain the hope for clear light.

1 comment:

Karen Miedrich-Luo said...

I love those lines from Gregg - that wasn't the first workshop you/we took? Sorry, but I don't remember her name.
I've travelled so much back and forth across midwestern terrain in my lifetime, but mostly when I was young, a military brat. I had no idea those places still existed. Walmart's changed the landscape so that I thought such places vanished years ago.