Monday, July 16, 2012

On the Lake III

On the lake.  With Nature, with and without people, in a boat.  This third variation of the theme is from the writer Edith Pearlman's story Self Reliance:

   She changed into her bathing suit and took a quick swim, waving to the Sisters Scrabble and the geezer.  Back in her house she put on jeans and a T-shirt, tossed the wet suit onto the crotch of a chokecherry tree.  What should a person take for a predinner paddle?  Binoculars, sun hat against insidious sidelong rays, towel, and the thermos she'd already filled with its careful cocktail.  Pharmacology had been a continuing interest.  "I'll swallow three pills a day and not a gobbet more," Aunt Shelley had declared.  "You choose them, rascal."
   Cornelia pushed off vigorously, then used a sweep stroke to turn the canoe and look at the slate roof and stone walls of her house.  Just a little granite place, she realized; not fantastical after all.  She had merely exchanged one austerity for another.  She thought of the tomatoes, and turned again and stroked, right side, left, right. . . Then, as if she were her own passenger, she opened a backrest and settled herself against it and slid the paddle under the seat.  She drank her concoction slowly, forestalling nausea.
   Sipping, not thinking, she drifted on a cobalt disk under an aquamarine dome.  Birches bent to honor her, tall pines guarded the birches.  She looked down the length of her body.  She had not worn rubber boat shoes, only sandals, and her ten toenails winked flamingo.

The story is in a marvelous collection, published in 2011,  Binocular Vision.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On the Lake II

Wang Wei is one of the major poets of the Tang dynasty (618-907), the period of greatest poetic flowering in China.  I thought of this poem when I read Stanley Kunitz's The Long Boat (see below), and I wondered if Stanley Kunitz was "seeing" Wang Wei's poem alongside his own while he worked.

Lake Yi

Blowing flutes cross to the distant shore.
At day's dusk I bid farewell to you.
On the lake with one turn of the head:
Mountain green rolls into white clouds.

This poem is translated by Pauline Yu, from a terrific book she wrote (1980), The Poetry of Wang Wei

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On the Lake

"In the Slop of His Cradle"

Elise Archer made this beautiful painting, which I reproduced from the cover of The Collected Poems, by Stanley Kunitz, her husband.  The painting's title is also the 17th line of a poem by Stanley Kunitz.  Here is the poem:


When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace!  Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if he didn't know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.