Re-Runs, Re-Reading, and Making Room for Change

Time seems to be flying by. This is good in that spring is only two weeks away; not so good when one is preparing for an audition/recital.

It usually seems to me that things are going well, but then there is the reality check of a weekly lesson. I am always grateful for that, however; the polishing and honing of work already on its way is the part of the process that I enjoy the most, whether it’s practicing a piece or revising a poem. I love how the things I haven’t noticed before gradually step up to the front, seeking attention and possible redress (in the old sense of “putting to rights”).

I guess that’s true of relationships as well—both present and past.  I suppose it’s “normal” to proceed in life assuming that the people around you are staying just the same as always, unless something that we usually consider unfortunate comes about, demanding our attention. It’s probably true that the essence of a person never really changes; however, it also seems true that different aspects or facets of who they are come into play at different points in their lives. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of the changes in everyone around us, not to mention in ourselves.

After listening to my stumbling through the “prestissimo” movement of the Beethoven Sonata, Stefanie pointed out (kindly)—not just the errors, which were the least of it—but the missed opportunities for emphasis and interpretation—phrases and other structural points that had been, quite literally, outside of my awareness.  This is what I love about the work such lessons entail—the opportunity to expand your awareness about something which you thought you had nailed. I guess it is unsettling at first, but the opportunity it provides for new complexity and richness outweighs, usually, for me, the sense of being disconcerted.

It keeps things alive, fresh.  And reminds us that there is usually more to anything than the snapshot we have taken of it at any particular time. But we can become attached to those snapshots, those “stories.”

I watched “Roman Holiday” again last night—because it happened to be on and Steve was watching it. I rarely re-watch movies or re-read books (except for books of poetry). As Dana Stevens, film critic at Slate, writes in today’s NYT’s Bookends, “there’s such an infinite wealth of new titles to discover that slipping back into that well-worn groove of already experienced pleasure can feel like simple regression.”  But she does make some exceptions for those few books that dare her “past self to find new evidence for that old love.”

It’s a cliché that you cannot step into the same river even once, but watching the young Audrey Hepburn change from girl to woman in that enchanting story from 1953 brought me to tears in ways it never had before. She looked so much like what my 16-year-old sister was trying to look like during that time: the shorn hair that was so much in style in the early 50s, the scarf lightly knotted around the neck. It sent me back to photos of her at that time which, enlarged, showed me aspects of her that I had never noticed before: how much she looked like my mother, for instance, as well as the expression I would have found annoying had she been my daughter!

Sharp segue, but I hope you stay with me: another NYT article from Friday, “Astronomers Watch a Supernova and See Reruns” describes a process still only faintly understandable to me despite the journalist’s, Dennis Overbye’s, admirable attempts. Basically, he writes, “astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope say they have been watching the same star blow itself to smithereens in a supernova explosion over and over again, thanks to a trick of Einsteinian optics.”

planetfacts.org“The star exploded more than nine billion years ago on the other side of the universe, too far for even the Hubble to see without special help from the cosmos. In this case, however, light rays from the star have been bent and magnified by the gravity of an intervening cluster of galaxies so that multiple images of it appear.” These images have been seen in 1964, 1995, 2014, and are predicted to be seen again in 2015-2020.

As enamored as I am of the metaphorical possibilities of both quantum and astro physics, it seems clear that our “everyday reality” is not adequately described by the weirdness of the very small or the very large. NEVERTHELESS, the metaphors continue to compel many writers and poets. My poem “Baubo Ponders Questions of Quantum Physics” appears in two of my chapbooks: Ties that Bind and Avatars of Baubo, and was in part inspired by the 1978 book by Robert H. March called Physics for Poets.

Here are two more that I just happened to read again, more or less at random: Ruth Stone’s “The Illusion” from In the Next Galaxy (Copper Canyon, 2002), and Mary Jo Salter’s “Nora” from Nothing by Design (Knopf, 2013):

 

The Illusion

 

I am not genes and the genes are not me.

We are identical twins, separated at birth.

This is my sinew. This is my fertile ovary.

What is worth the universe is also worth me.

 

I am not me. I am the genes. The double helix.

My future is spelled out. Tool of the universe:

pricks, cunts, genuflections; the orgasm’s curse,

brief span, holy thou: I am the neutron fix.

 

I am the hole, the dark other, the negative between

I was and I am. Wherefore yes, dense and disperse,

blinded visionary that locks the moon in place;

I am the simple sieve that drinks the universe.

 

Nora

 

Even in death your radiance follows me.

Or leads me. You’re ahead of me on the sidewalk,

pushing your baby’s pram as I push mine,

and you swing your head to greet someone driving by,

your sheet of black hair the shiniest anyone

has ever seen; you don’t even understand

that nobody in her thirties shines that much,

 

nobody laughs so musically at jokes

that are not that funny. Whatever it was I said

twenty years ago, whatever anyone said

no longer is heard, or can be, the way you took it

because you’re not here to beam it back, to turn it

funny or beautiful—even the saddest things

you somehow made useful to us who were sad

 

with those infinite eyes of yours, looking right at us,

that Oh that was all acceptance. Even in death

that swept down upon you, death that locked you shut

and the No that is locked inside your name now, Nora,

I see the Ra for sun god, too, which is silly,

but you’d understand; I take it for your radiance

that even now in the darkness follows me.

*******

And I have the following quotation from Lee Smith’s novel Oral History taped above my desk: “Nothing is ever over, nothing is ever ended, and worlds open up within the world we know.”

So Mote it Be.

 

 

 

 

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