Absorption

It’s summer, and I have fallen headlong into my new job. I’m sorry for the break in writing here. In May, I got bowled over by a flying calendar, 72 pages’ worth, and since then my quiet three-page weekly section of the local paper has bloomed into a weekly magazine, 24 pages and counting.

So this blog will run on a kind of reverse academic schedule for the forseeable future. Whatever writing time I carve out over the summer I’ve been saving for my novel. But I’ll still be here when I can.

There’s a pleasure in absorption. It’s finding out what I can produce, and holding each magazine in my hands when it’s finished. It’s walking through new buildings, and reading my freelancers’ hikes up trails three miles from here that I’ve never heard of, and getting to tell people about them. It’s sending a staff writer off on his first trail ride and hearing him laugh about it afterward. I feel that I’m doing good work.

And in the cracks, when I’m walking home late on a deadline day, blissful because it’s done, sometimes somewhere along the wood fence by the stream in the park I pull out a pocket notebook and jot a note about my own book. My novel is always with me, and it hasn’t stopped reminding me that the hardest chapters are here already.

I am loving this season for its bareness. Mixing bread dough in the morning, barefoot in pajamas, I gloat when the stretched neckline of the old shirt I wear slides over my shoulders. I’m loving the blue haze of mountains, and I’m loving the headlong rush of work, most of the time. In part for the way it makes me think, and carefully finger all my spare moments, and for the way it keeps me here.

It’s easy to be impatient in a new place, in a new job — to want comfort and company all at once, and to feel I should be doing more, faster. I still have five chapters left in a draft I wanted to have done in May, and I’m still single, and I still haven’t planted snapdragons under the front window or oregano by the drain pipe. And I’m still laughing at myself. You see what I mean?

Too much absorption can be dangerous. But all the same, if you never let yourself fall wholly into something, you never stretch yourself wholly. The greatest joy of graduate school was to let myself love the work I wanted, and choose it, and knock myself silly finding out how to do it. Now I’ve done that, a few minutes by the stream in the dark, and a few hours writing longhand in my arm chair, will keep me going weeks at a stretch.

Without that time to want it openly and think it through, I wouldn’t be able to see the work clearly. I feel more firmly myself for it. So I’m wishing, for many people I know, enough sleep, and enough spurring from like minds, and enough space, and enough time to fall in love.

World enough and time
For Rachel on her birthday, March 21, 2008

When you are walking wide streets under palms
or leaning forward at an outdoor table,
let the sun steep you in the gentle heat
of argument. A breeze lifts linen from you.
Bowls of dates hold corners of translations,
and muezzins call, not far away.

People from all reaches of away
felt with you the soft, dry shade of palms
and read with you translations of translations.
They cupped a flame and blessed a sabbath table
and left that flame to live today with you.
Hold to your forehead that absorbing heat.

This afternoon you will run the first heat.
The canopy has been folded away
and all the courtyard beckons bright around you.
Drink among the orange trees and palms.
Talk begins like rain around the table,
and you begin to write your own translations.

Among you, you will write your own translations
as once Toledans quickened in the heat
a university around a table
with a hundred definitions of away.
A ladder rung leaves friction on your palms.
Stories out of stories will enthrall you.

Classmates chant a blessing, turn to you,
laughing with the quick joy of translations.
Clap and sing contemporary psalms
until your palms are glowing with the heat.
Now within time, every here and away,
every sabbath table is this table.

Swallows’ shadows fly across the table.
Dusk has cooled the courtyard stones while you
were rapt, while you were looking for a way
to unite the root and all translations,
imprint the dates, the swallows and the heat,
this communion touching palms to palms.

Let palms inscribe your palms then; let this table
heat in the sun and brand its knot holes through you:
translate away from love — love from away.

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3 Responses to “Absorption”

  1. rbarenblat Says:

    Beautiful, my dear. Thank you so much — for the poem in the first place, and for posting it now, when it feels like just the benediction I need for the journey to come.

  2. Dave Says:

    Don’t you mean “absorption”?

  3. springfarmalmanac Says:

    Why yes – yes I do, now you mention it!

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