05 April 2009

Garlic And Sapphires In The Mud

I've never really understood much poetry - I'm far too literal-minded for it. But in casting my eyes over the bookshelves in the living room as my mother lay dying, the poetry shelf beckoned to me, because it's a short form that can be read aloud without much overt comprehension. The flow of the words washes past, the prosody of the text provides its own delight. And for all my posturing about my lack of understanding, I've long had a sneaker for The Four Quartets, quite possibly solely for the "garlic and sapphires in the mud" line - which I love for its juxtaposition of the earthy and the frou-frou, the pungent and the refined.

Imagine, then, my bemusement at the poetic expressions of sympathy offered up by friends and relatives and commenters.

Herewith a couple of poems that didn't come as comments:

A friend sent this by email:


What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

--Philip Larkin

And my sister-in-law (on the other side, not the one that just had a baby) put this on the private family blog:

Things Shouldn’t Be So Hard

A life should leave

deep tracks:

ruts where she

went out and back

to get the mail
or move the hose

around the yard;

where she used to

stand before the sink,

a worn-out place;

beneath her hand,

the china knobs

rubbed down to

white pastilles;

the switch she

used to feel for

in the dark

almost erased.

Her things should

keep her marks.

The passage

of a life should show;

it should abrade.

And when life stops,

a certain space

—however small—

should be left scarred

by the grand and

damaging parade.

Things shouldn’t

be so hard.

--Kay Ryan

I am deeply appreciative of the support I've received from you sturdy readers; thank you for being there.


flutter said...

you are good people

Angeline said...

those words are beautiful, hope they soothe your pain a little...

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing these, they are beautiful, and give another meaning to the title.

I've been thinking about you.

Jess said...

That last poem is like a punch - it sneaks in and oomphs you into the scene....

Mayberry said...

Those are beautiful, as are so many of the commented ones as well. Take care.

erin said...

I rarely ever read poetry, but in times of need I will always turn to Byron...which is completely and totally insane, considering Byron was a callous and cruel piece of crap. Something about Childe Harold just makes me happy though. Weird?

S said...

i don't have the right words.

it's a good thing others do.


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

The Ryan poem is perfect, just perfect.

kathy a. said...

the poem from your SIL is incredible. it reflects how i feel about loved ones who are gone now -- that they did leave tracks, markers, images that pop out of times past and into my present. they may not be visible to anyone else, but are real to me.

my dad's been gone over 5 years now, but i can still hear his laugh; his myriad enthusiasms still make me smile when i run across one; i see amazing glimpses of him in my son -- his expressions, some of his interests, his sense of humor.

((( magpie ))) thinking of you.

Aunt Becky said...

I typically hate poetry (I think it's leftover teen angst) but those two, especially the one from your SIL, are beautiful.

Woman in a Window said...

That last poem especially speaks to me. That's real living.

Aurelia said...

You've been here for us, so you are so welcome, and thank you for letting us support you. It always feels nice to help others.

Ozma said...

These are incredible. I hope you are OK.

Sometimes poetry is what you need. These experiences verge on inexpressible.

Kay Ryan. Isn't she amazing? She is making me love poetry again. (This is irrelevant: She is the first poet that I found something out about where it didn't make me suspect her poetry. She herself seems deeply authentic. She's a poet one can love.)

Maggie May said...

I'm so sorry you lost your mom.

Anonymous said...

Poetry cannot be "understood" standing alone. It is something to let in, step back from and watch the reflections and ripples. Garlic and Saphires in the mud has helped me forgive Mr. Eliot his anti-semitism because the reflections speak kindly to his foundational stuff, his innards, enabling me to not take him personally, which has been a struggle for me.