Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Mother Washes her AMX

Do not be misled by the fact that the camera has brought the verdant Ohio shrub in the background into sharp focus. The true and slightly blurred subject is my tiny mother, Olga, washing the sports car she bought and, the summer she was seventy, drove all over America for several months, visiting family, old and new friends, and places she used to live in or love. She drove a lot on non-freeway roads and stopped at many small roadside museums and made new friends, and probably gave them advice. She had always loved cars since she worked for the Dodge dealer in Mesa, Arizona,and bought her first car, a Dodge, naturally. She had to give up that car when she went to college.

Often, when she went for gas, people would ask her if she could be persuaded to sell the AMX. But, even after she quit driving, she kept this sports car until she left Shaker Heights to go and live near my sister, Susan, in Utah. And then she gave it to a friend,

Tonight, Jill made Scott a pumpkin cake and a scrumptious birthday dinner. And then we watched the World Series game 4. Red Sox and Cardinals now tied 2-2. Makes it more interesting, really.

Tonight's poem is one I've been saving for quite a while. It is the title poem from Adam Zagajewski's book, Canvas, Farrar Strauss Giroux, 1991, page 81. The translators for this book are listed as Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry and C. K. Williams.


I stood in silence before a dark picture
before a canvas that might have been
coat, shirt, flag,
but had turned instead into the world.

I stood in silence before the dark canvas,
charged with delight and revolt and I thought
of the arts of painting and living,
of so many blank, bitter days,

of moments of helplessness
and my chilly imagination
that's the tongue of a bell
alive only when swaying,

striking what it loves,
loving what it strikes,
and it came to me that this canvas
could have become a winding-sheet, too.

                             * * * * * * *

I like the orderly presentation in four stanzas of four lines each. It supports the gradual unwinding of the order in which the thought progresses. Since the thought is bleak at the core, this orderliness is helpful in understanding without being overpowered. The first line, "I stood in silence before a dark picture," could be the taking-off point for other poems. I would like to see where it might take me.

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