The Truth about Small Towns
It’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week and that means it’s time to appreciate the people who talk about books with me. They form a kind of small town in the middle of the blogosphere, a place where I feel like I am known and my comments are valued and usually understood, even if I’m not always able to articulate exactly what I mean on a particular day.
There’s a small town’s worth of book blogs I like to visit, listed under “Book Blogs” on my header. These are the places I live on the internet. There are a few places I always walk by on my way home, because I feel like I’m invited in–Avid Reader, Care’s Online Book Club, Bermuda Onion, The Feminist Texican Reads, Boston Bibiliophile, Savvy Verse and Wit, Life With Books, Wuthering Expectations, Pages Turned, and The 3 Rs. And there are places I frequent, where I spend time as often as I can–Bookgazing, Jenny’s Books, Shelf Love, Sophisticated Dorkiness, and Things Mean A Lot. There are even a few places where they leave the door open for me and I come by every day to talk about raising children, bread, gardens, and hopes, in addition to my inevitable remarks about what I’m reading: Harriet the Spy, Life in Scribbletown, Kitties, Kitties, Kitties, Readers Guide, Permanent Qui Vive, and Lemming’s Progress.
The truth about small towns is that you can’t get away with much, because these folks know who you are and where you live. But that makes me feel more responsible for saying something worth hearing and trying not to repeat myself. Thank you all for being part of my virtual small town. I have a poem for you, written by someone who is part of the small town where I live my real life . It’s my favorite one from David Baker’s volume The Truth about Small Towns:
Yellow Lilies and Cypress Swamp
So green against the standing water they’re
nearly black, the sudden, wild lily stalks
cup their flames like candlesticks beyond which,
as though it bears no end, the cypress swamp
continues into steam and smoke. How
lilies grow here is anybody’s guess—
an errant seed buried in some bird’s wing.
Or they caught a hard spring blow, floating down.
they bloom amber in landscape hazed dull green,
darkly cool, yet dangerous enough we
must watch our step or fall upon the strange,
hard cypress knees bunched around each trunk.
And how the cypresses reach through shallow
pools for sturdiness, thickened at the base,
stretched like softened sinew. They span upwards
of seventy feet, delicate, high, arched
canopy of leaves, gauze-white in the light.
Above water their short knees go rough, dry.
Below they’re veined, yellow-red, like agates
broken open or the small, torn tissues
of a body turned stone by cold neglect.
They shine in a black, clean foot of water—
mosses cling to them. Wild lilies burning
in a cypress swamp. We wish to hold them.
High, lighted altar. Pews of fine-planed board.
And mourners filing past the burnished, closed
casket to kiss his photograph, to touch
the bright brass fittings, say their goodbyes now
that it’s too late. When the preacher stands
to lead us all in song, we recall beauty
is most likely in these solemn places.
Not the song, too pious and commanding,
not the stained-glass lighting or white candles
thawing onto hand-rubbed ebony, not
the few friends torn apart, here to heal,
but like a sudden slash of blood in wind one
redwing blackbird flashing past a clear pane
under which spreads a fist of lilies in a vase—
like landscape cupped, held, kept. One gorgeous flame.
To celebrate all of you who provide or visit these places where “beauty/is most likely,” I’m giving away my copy of this volume (The Truth about Small Towns), one I bought in the local college bookstore. To enter, put your email address in the comments by the end of the week, and the winner will be chosen by a random drawing and announced here next Monday morning, September 19 (which is talk like a pirate day, by the way).