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The Promise

October 11, 2011

Last night I got a call for a ride in the middle of playing Holst’s Jupiter at a symphony rehearsal, and had to drive off through the quiet streets–with dark silhouettes of leaves swirling down from the trees and crunching under the tires–to pick up Walker from his play rehearsal. Perhaps it was the music still swirling through my head, the warmth of the evening, and the frequent sight of still, dark lumps by the side of the road, but all the schedules, best-laid plans, and back-up plans that failed sort of fell away and I was content to be simply traveling through the dark.

This morning more schedules and plans failed, while acorns fell sporadically onto the wooden deck outside, and I’m hoping I can continue my calm attitude, although I’m thinking of my friend from London who told me this summer that he’d found a mug he thought would be perfect for me that says “Now Panic and Freak Out” with the picture of the crown upside down, to parody “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Usually I’m an optimist, but lately I’ve become more of a fatalist, especially with the trees turning and the way it “gets dark early now.” It all makes me think of this poem, “The Promise,” from Michael David Madonick’s volume Waking The Deaf Dog:

The Promise

You’ve seen them dead in the street. Birds—
pigeons, sparrows, hawks fallen from the sky.
You think, at first, they were just tired
of it all, seen everything, enough, couldn’t
think their way out, they just dropped dead
in the middle of a flap. But that’s not it,
I know, that’s not it. I’ve been told everything
has a promise. Everything. Seeds, people,
clouds. I’ve been told the acorn already knows
that it is large, that the tree inside it
is waiting to be filled. That nests
are being made in the mid of a crow
that isn’t born yet. It is hard for me
to believe too. But I tell you, I believe
it now. I have seen planes fall from the sky,
people stop dead in the street. Just yesterday,
a plane flying from Kanpur to Katmandu crashed
into the side of a mountain, the pilot repeating,
“I see the airport, I see the lights. We’re
coming in.” You say “It wasn’t there.” I say,
he saw it. I say, he saw an airport that wasn’t
built yet and birds are flying into promises. I
know it’s hard to believe. We all hit something.
I’ve been told, this is the dark room
We practice being blind in.

I like the idea that “birds are flying into promises,” and even that “we all hit something.” Because it’s comforting to think that there’s a plan. Even if it fails, it’s nice to think that there is one, as I set off on another journey to fulfill a promise made before I was even born, possibly while I was still a twinkle in my father’s eye.

We have reservations at a restaurant called Celebrations. But we’ll see if any of our plans come to fruition.  I guess it’s like my brother, a former photojournalist, once told me about taking photographs–take a lot of them, and you might get one or two good ones.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2011 11:44 am

    I like the poem and the mug – however, today, I’m in a very positive and up-beat mood, so I shall think of fumbling around in the dark room and finding the window shade, is that all right?

  2. October 11, 2011 11:48 am

    Yes, that’s quite all right. I’ll put on my sunglasses here in the dark corner.

  3. October 11, 2011 12:10 pm

    As if on cue, Eleanor just texted me that she is sick and has a fever. That sound you hear is the trunk of another plan falling over in the forest of plans.

  4. October 11, 2011 2:04 pm

    “The Promise” makes me weep.

  5. October 11, 2011 3:54 pm

    It is sometimes better when all the plans fall at once. Then you have no choice but to throw up your hands. It’s easier than trying to claw your way back to your expectations. Beautiful poem. I liked the same parts best that you did.

    • October 11, 2011 9:24 pm

      Yes, it can be better–and when all the plans fall at once, you definitely hear it, whether you’re actually in the forest or not! These plans are revised from the ones I first made in August, when I bought airline tickets for Eleanor to fly home this weekend. We are into alternate plan 4a at this point.

  6. October 11, 2011 6:53 pm

    I’ve been too busy to be depressed about the tide of seasons turning. I’ve been trying to find beauty in the turning of the leaves and since I’ve done almost nothing the last few days but drive down country, suburban and city roads amongst them, I’ve seen plenty. I have half expected something to go horribly awry. Red is back on the nebulizer and has a runny nose but is otherwise not sick enough to matter. Plan wise. If I can get past tomorrow, I might slide quietly into the rest of the week and then whatever is going to happen can just go ahead and happen. Sigh.

    • October 11, 2011 9:25 pm

      I’ve seen plenty of leaves on country roads lately, too. It’s hard to be grumpy when the trees are full of such color.

  7. Karen D permalink
    October 11, 2011 8:33 pm


    If I may offer a dark ray of good fortune (a ray of darkly good fortune?):

    I think I remember that you have a Kindle, in which case you might enjoy some of the free eBooks linked to/downloadable via the post below.

    I know you don’t like autumn. Still, maybe you’ll like the books.

    • October 11, 2011 9:26 pm

      Those really are rays of darkly good fortune! What a wonderful list! I used her links to buy six I didn’t already have on my Kindle!
      Thank you!

  8. October 11, 2011 11:56 pm

    Oh dear.

    What I like is what your brother says. Something eventually works.

    All right — I’m ready to see fall.

  9. October 11, 2011 11:57 pm

    Also, I don’t see birds dead in the street — squirrels, maybe, but not birds.

    • October 12, 2011 7:01 am

      You will see a wider variety of roadkill around here, I think.

  10. October 12, 2011 12:00 am

    Oh no! I just read the deer poem!

    • October 12, 2011 7:01 am

      when I say “traveling through the dark” that’s always what I mean. Keep this in mind between the airport and my house.

  11. October 12, 2011 9:13 pm

    We had a dark dreary rainy fall day here today. This post fit it perfectly.

    • October 13, 2011 9:00 am

      Glad you thought so. I thought it fit a bright, sunny day when nothing was apparently wrong but plans I’d made kept falling through. It fits both because it’s more about inner weather.

  12. PAJ permalink
    October 13, 2011 8:34 am

    Loved the poem. Hope Eleanor is better soon.

    • October 13, 2011 9:00 am

      Her fever was gone yesterday. She kept texting me for OTC medicine-taking advice.

  13. October 13, 2011 8:48 am

    That’s a beautiful poem and fits today perfectly!

    • October 13, 2011 9:02 am

      Glad you think so too. I like the way it’s full of secrets, like fall with early dark.

  14. October 13, 2011 7:27 pm

    Ha! That sounds like a great mug.

  15. October 13, 2011 8:21 pm

    There’s a t-shirt I’ve seen online in this country, too.

  16. October 13, 2011 8:46 pm

    That is a beautiful poem. I love it. Are all the others in the book as gorgeous as that one?

  17. October 13, 2011 10:25 pm

    I think this is the best poem in the volume. But if you like, I’ll give you some others. There’s one called “Peas” that may be my second favorite.

    • October 15, 2011 8:54 am

      My instinct is to say “Yes Peas”. It’s because of my father. I will strive to repress it.

      • October 18, 2011 2:02 pm

        As much I like you and your mother, I think your father and my parents would be friends. *Sniffs and puts nose in the air* …puns… and jokes like CDB?

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