Although it’s been nice and hot outside, just the way I like it, I’ve spent much of the week in an air conditioned office, planning for fall.
I’ve been helping a 13-year-old boy learn to like writing better, and it’s given me a lot of ideas for helping college students learn how to relax a little and let themselves make a few mistakes in the service of learning how to better express the complexity of their thoughts on paper.
And I’ve been mulling over a conversation I had at the beach with my college friends, about discovering that one of them has sleep apnea and is getting better sleep with the help of a machine. The other night, when I woke up after a dream in which I was drowning and couldn’t get my breath, it dawned on me (heh) that I have all the symptoms of sleep apnea myself. I’m relieved, because I thought it was just how it is when you get older. It’s been irritating me that for the last year, I have been close to or have actually fallen asleep during things I want to do, like reading a book, watching a movie in a theater, or even driving a car down a multi-lane highway.
Last night Walker and Ron and I went to see the new Ghostbusters movie. We all enjoyed it thoroughly (yes, it kept me awake), and when we got home, Walker said he wasn’t quite ready for “family time” to end. We talked about things we could do, like play bananagrams, but what he eventually said he wanted was have a poetry reading. Ron and I agreed, as long as all of the poems were in English (Walker likes Russian poetry and sometimes reads it to us in the original language, for the sound). So we each picked a couple of poems, but then one of Walker’s reminded Ron of another, and one of Ron’s reminded me of another, and then Walker read us the greatest Robert Service parody I’ve ever heard.
Among Ron’s early selections was a very old poem that he has always known and been fond of, but I never remember hearing before, “Farewell, Rewards and Fairies,” in which a 16th-century person longs for the good old days.
Among Walker’s early selections was a very sad and lovely Mayakovsky poem, “Instead of a Letter,” that I suspect he has read more than once in the months since breaking up with someone (long distance, while they were both overseas) after more than four years of being together. We all feel sad about this, and so liked sharing some of the sadness, for a few moments.
By Maggie Smith
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
Sometimes my children—especially Walker—talk to me about ambition, their own and what they think my ambitions should be. I like it that they think I should still have ambitions, that in addition to trying to “sell them the world” I’ve also tried to be a caretaker, and they’re going to keep holding me responsible for my end.
How was your week? Seen any good movies? Read any good poems?