Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fire Season: On the Eve of Our Seventh Anniversary

August 4th was my wedding anniversary. We haven't really gotten to celebrate it yet. But we have instead just declared it our annivesary month. Each day we wish each other a happy anniversary and every other or so we open a bottle of wine.

The weekend before our day, we were camping in Big Sur. I lost my balance walking in the river and jammed the ring finger on my left hand. Luckily, I had enough presence of mind to move my wedding ring to my other hand before the injuried finger swelled up into a purple balloon. I'm still wearing the ring on my right hand as my knuckle hasn't quite gone back to its original ways.

Mike and I have something of a history with the Big Sur River and our anniversary. A couple months before our first year together his ring came off while we were walking together in the water and that was that. Gift to the gods. Had to have it remade.

The Henry Miller Library in Big Sur has a new slogan - "The Henry Miller Library - where nothing happens." This is of course a complete truth and a complete lie. Big Sur is a magical place where shit happens, in a Zen kind of not really sort of way.

We are about to go off again for more camping adventures beginning this weekend, and since by the time we return it will be the end of our anniversary month, I thought I would share this now, foolishly, perhaps, as no eyes but mine have seen it. I see it as kind of a companion piece to another poem I've been working on forever about my grandparents "practical romance" as I've imagined it. That one is called "The Space Between."

The poem below is a draft. They are all drafts. What the hell. Here goes:

Fire Season: On the Eve of Our Seventh Anniversary

My husband, my love
has never once called me any term of endearment
not a honey, not a sweetheart, I've never been baby.
So when the camping stove he was priming
to heat water for our dinner of soup broth and rice
lit the picnic table on fire and flames climbed
in a pyre that engulfed the view
from the triangle doorway of the tent
where I was reading, he said only
my name, once, almost quietly: Kitty.
And I flew from my spot to where he was,
bare feet scored by unfriendly brambles.

I will not be the one, I thought. I will not be the one
to set this forest back aflame, to scar the redwoods
I chose as respite. I will not be the one.
Those were the mind's musings in the moments
before reflection. And yet, why not me? Why
should I be blameless? Have we not all set fires
now and then, just to watch them burn?

My monologues, he quiet, closing,
both of us walled cities, and then a spark,
words too close to the wick and we ignite,
just briefly, a flash – like lightning in a forest.

Once when my grandmother was just a girl
lightning entered the kitchen window and burned
a black path across the floor while she watched.
What did she learn then, after the fear had dissipated,
taking up residence in this and that corner of who she was?

These forests - just open again after so much charring smoke,
dozers plowing fat lines through the dirt daring the flames to cross,
ocean copters dropping gallons to try to keep it in place.
The redwoods are fearless. Let it come, they whisper,
not a pang in any branch. Basin Complex Fire –
it means nothing to them - fire is fire, this one,
the one a hundred years ago, a hundred years from now.

There is a taking stock, a naming that happens
in the nebulous space before change clicks into place
and everything is different. He called me
to be beside him, if not to help extinguish
the danger, then to witness the burning. He called me,
my name invoked in calm terror.

The fire went out almost as suddenly as it lit. The stove
hurled in the fire pit, the table dowsed
with our weekend's drinking water. I stood, trembling,
on the eve of our anniversary, still raw
from so many parched acres, mighty hillsides
grey with ash. In seven years,
not a honeypie, not a single lovey-dovey.

(I've already changed some of these lines twice in the few hours this post has been up. Stay tuned, it may continue to morph.)

1 comment:

bobbie said...

Your father did use terms of endearment - frequently. but, as I'm sur I've told you before, he never did propose to me. We just knew. And I am very sure, and am sure that you know, Mike knows that you know. How could you not? I think it's rather sweet - just knowing.

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