Monday, November 29, 2010

Week in Seven Words #43

Hold a small piece of paper perpendicular to your lower lip. Blow across the surface of the paper. Watch it lift up instead of droop. Now you've got an insight into how airplanes fly. (The young boy is intrigued by his grandfather's on-the-spot science experiment. He runs off to get paper for everyone. Now we're all scientists, blowing on our pieces of paper, feeling a spark of wonder.)

He puts down the book and joins us in watching and laughing at the movie. Study and work don't seem possible after the meal. We're in a semi-circle, three generations, taking a break from whatever usually calls us to other places.

In the bookstore I pause at the same tables three, four, five times in the course of browsing; I touch the books, flip through them, glance at their summaries and covers, and wait for that feeling that tells me that this one or that one will be a good gift.

The bubbles are enormous. They erupt from large sticks and soapy ropes and glide through the air in rainbow amoebic shapes. When they explode clear pieces of their skin collapse to the ground.

"Look what I made you." (A soft slipper of felt in which to keep my glasses). "Look what I made." (A little felt coin-purse dangling from a red string, and on it a greeting for me in large block letters). "Read this one." (He leans on my shoulder and attends to stories of robot-like creatures who battle for the fate of Earth and its reserves of energy.) "How do you get it to open?" (Children's toys are so complicated.) "I'll give her pizza before her nap." (She pats at the doll's eyes and sticks a wedge of plastic pizza in the vicinity of its mouth.) "What day is my birthday?" (I tell him.) "But what day of the week will it be?" (I don't know.) "If you come I'll be so happy," he says.

At the end of the game I wind up with two S's and two blanks, and I won't be able to call myself a respectable Scrabble player if I don't make a seven letter word. But 'morsels' won't fit, and neither will 'sellers'. The suspense mounts.

Thanksgiving treats - mashed yams with cinnamon and pecans, cranberries glinting in a glass bowl, apple cider flowing from slender green bottles.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An interview with...

Robert Frost's Banjo features a wonderful weekly series of interviews with writers, "Writers Talk". I'm honored to say that this week I'm the interviewee.

As part of the interview I also submitted a poem to the related Writers Talk blog called Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pinky Toe (and I talk briefly about the origins of this funny little piece in the interview...)

Also take the opportunity to enjoy Robert Frost's Banjo; it's a blog to explore and savor - there's poetry and short fiction, music recordings (with background for each piece), photography and history and cultural commentary. The blog is run by John Hayes, a poet and musician who features his work there along with other writers' and musicians' work; he's also written books of poetry, the latest one being The Spring Ghazals, an excellent book that has gotten enthusiastic, positive and in-depth reviews.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week in Seven Words #42

Different people I'm friends with can find it difficult to talk to each other; their approach to life, personality, interests, may not overlap much and so there isn't a lot of common ground for light dinner time discussion, especially if they don't know each other well. I like that they have to work a little harder to make conversation. Sometimes they regard each other speculatively or with bafflement, as if they're assessing species membership; other times they bond briefly over a love of sticky cinnamon kugel.

The moon squints through a film of cloud.

What doesn't get done today will not get done tomorrow but might get done the day after tomorrow.

When I need a break from work one thing I do is look up bus and train schedules and imagine myself traveling from one town to another. I take my time coming home.

The roots of the trees swim in gold leaves.

A young boy, half-shy and half-pleased, gives a little speech in Yiddish. The people at the dinner sing in Yiddish too, and there are echoes of the shtetl in their voices. I've never been to Eastern Europe and did not grow up among Yiddish speakers, but my family's history runs through that part of the world, and there's a bittersweet pain when I think about the way of life systematically wiped out and the way the rich culture still manages to endure.

To step outside and discover that it's just rained, and that after a walk through the cold clean air I'll sit down to a baked apple, golden and brown and smeared with cinnamon.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Week in Seven Words #41

I love these mellow gold mornings, when I go outdoors and the air has a bite to it, and the sun is out, and the trees shine with autumn. It seems like the most uncomplicated part of the day; everything is fresh and new. I'm not yet indoors somewhere chipping away at a pile of work. It's just me, my feet, my eyes, my roving mind, and I love taking it in - even if it's a short walk it feels like it takes up more space in time.

At sunset there is wine mixed into the waters of the estuary. The skies fade in a stupor.

Good conversation is nourishing. Not just the usual small talk or discussion of minor practicalities, but meaty rambling conversation on all sorts of topics, over a hearty lunch - a break in the day that stirs up the mind and soul.

Why peck at crumbs when I can feast?

She poses in plaid and jeans on a dusky field, her face framed with faded yellow hair.

In the back room of a storybook house that plays hide and seek among some trees, we talk about stories and poems. In the room the furniture is a hodgepodge of easy chairs, old sofas, and folding chairs that squeak beneath us as we lean forward and make our points; the light is low and warm, and a moth of some sort bangs around against the ceiling before crawling in shame-faced fashion between couch cushions.

I amuse myself thinking of the trees as paintbrushes that have been swirled around in the brown, murky water of the pond.

US 3rd Armored Division

On Veterans Day this past week, I searched for some footage of troops and veterans, and found a Vimeo account for the US 3rd Armored Division (which was active from 1941 to 1992); they had posted all kinds of videos, from interviews with veterans to footage from various campaigns across decades.

Here's one that shows General Eisenhower making an inspection of the 3rd Armored Division in February 1944, just a few months before D-Day. During WWII, the 3rd Armored Division came to be known as the "Spearhead Division" (especially under the leadership of Major General Maurice Rose, who was killed in action in March 1945); they made great gains for the Allies in the battle for Europe, and they suffered many deaths and casualties.

Eisenhower inspects 3AD - 1944 from on Vimeo.

And this one takes place at a memorial service in Iraq in 1991 and shows Sgt. Preston Holloway of the 3rd Armored Division singing the National Anthem. Before he begins singing, another soldier shares the following quote: "It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch".

Soldier sings National Anthem from on Vimeo.

Thank you to our veterans for their service across the decades.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Week in Seven Words #40

Some speakers, confronted with questions they don't know how to answer, stand behind the podium in a long silent pause of processing and confusion; their speech when it comes is halting.

We sit around a low rectangular table with a delicious makeshift meal spread out - wine, olives, chicken inside of pitas, nuts and honeydew for dessert - and the evening is full of talk, and we're together, cheerful and warm on a cold night.

Red flowers spread open against gray stone and sky.

Here they come to look and ask: earnest and nervous or sphinx-like or easy-going with a warm smile or keyed up with caffeine or politely patient or good-natured and tired or world-weary and amusing (and amused).

The sign language interpreters at each lecture are fascinating to watch. It's amazing how they rapidly translate in real time, for all kinds of speakers (mumblers, rapid-fire talkers among them), for all different kinds of words and phrases (variable, parameter, ANOVA), their hands and expressions fluid.

Past the window the world streams by: light spindly yellow birch groves, mist off an ocean, chain link fences rusted, dubious store fronts, wood plank houses, shells of factories with broken windows, a graveyard bathed in red and yellow leaves.

I agree with him. It can drive you mad.

Monday, November 1, 2010