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Planet

June 5, 2017

DBaedy4UMAAhG-kWe’re back from our now-annual trip to the Walker Percy Weekend in St. Francisville, Louisiana. My shirt had a quotation from Percy’s novel The Moviegoer this year, one that I had to abridge to fit on the shirt (see photo) but which in its entirety reads: “Ours is the only civilization in history which has enshrined mediocrity as its national ideal. Others have been corrupt, but leave it to us to invent the most undistinguished of corruptions. No orgies, no blood running in the street, no babies thrown off cliffs. No, we’re sentimental people and we horrify easily. True, our moral fiber is rotten. Our national character stinks to high heaven. But we are kinder than ever.”

We also enjoyed a visit with our friends who live near St. Francisville, people I met through book blogging. My blogger friend gave me a gift subscription to The Southern Review, which is one of the best and most thoughtful gifts I’ve received in a very long time—it’s full of new poems, delivered right to my door!

I read through the first issue and found this poem, which comes close to what I’m feeling on this lovely June morning after the wonderfulness of being in Louisiana, hearing what other people think about Walker Percy and sitting out on a porch in Feliciana Parish, talking and listening late into the steamy and bug-serenaded night:

Planet, by Catherine Pierce

This morning this planet is covered by winds and blue.
This morning this planet glows with dustless perfect light,
enough that I can see one million sharp leaves
from where I stand. I walk on this planet, its hard-packed

dirt and prickling grass, and I don’t fall off. I come down
soft if I choose, hard if I choose. I never float away.
Sometimes I want to be weightless on this planet, and so

I wade into a brown river or dive through a wave
and for a while feel nothing under my feet. Sometimes
I want to hear what it was like before the air, and so I duck
under the water and listen to the muted hums. I’m ashamed

to say that most days I forget this planet. That most days
I think about dentist appointments and plagiarists
and the various ways I can try to protect my body from itself.

Last weekend I saw Jupiter through a giant telescope,
its storm stripes, four of its sixty-seven moons, and was filled
with fierce longing, bitter that instead of Ganymede or Europa,
I had only one moon floating in my sky, the moon

called Moon, its face familiar and stale. But this morning
I stepped outside and the wind nearly knocked me down.
This morning I stepped outside and the blue nearly

crushed me. This morning this planet is so loud with itself—
its winds, its insects, its grackles and mourning doves—
that I can hardly hear my own lamentations. This planet.
All its grooved bark, all its sand of quartz and bones
and volcanic glass, all its creeping thistle lacing the yards
with spiny purple. I’m trying to come down soft today.
I’m trying to see this place even as I’m walking through it.

IMG_4882My own lamentations—that we have only a few weeks with Walker before he goes off to Siberia, that my right knee is still so bad I’ve scheduled its replacement on July 11th even though last time I vividly remember telling a friend that I’d rather shoot myself than ever go through that again, that my favorite Walker Percy novel, Love In the Ruins, seems to be coming true, with its satire on how liberals and conservatives can’t work together and the country is falling apart—are drowned out by how many of the ephemeral glories of this planet I’ve gotten to see in the past few days, and the presence and promise of more right here in my own backyard.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2017 7:29 pm

    Ahahahaha, I love your shirt! It does indeed have quite a lot of text on it. You are a treasure. ❤

    • June 6, 2017 11:28 am

      And you are good at gift-giving! When I first read that poem, I had to go out on the deck and read it out loud to Walker and Nicole, who had just come back from the lake.

  2. June 6, 2017 5:35 am

    Lovely post Jeanne. I hope you didn’t have too many people staring overlong at you bosom as they read the text! I must say that I feel much of what that quote says applies to quite a bit of the western world – perhaps in different degrees – but …

    That’s a lovely poem. I love the lines “This morning this planet is so loud with itself—/
    its winds, its insects, its grackles and mourning doves—/
    that I can hardly hear my own lamentations.”

    • June 6, 2017 11:30 am

      Ha, yes, there was way more bosom-staring than I’m used to, as a small-breasted woman! And it’s true that the quotation does apply to way too much of the world. It made me think of the line from one of my favorite songs, from the musical Into the Woods: “you’re so nice… you’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just nice…”

  3. June 6, 2017 2:55 pm

    Wow time flies, it seems like it wasn’t that long ago since the last Walker Percy weekend! Glad you had a good time. Love the shirt. sorry to hear about your knee.

    That is a magnificent poem! Thank you for sharing it! I am going to pay it forward and send it off to a friend in the Netherlands who I know will also appreciate it!

    • June 6, 2017 3:01 pm

      Glad you like the poem that much! In some ways it seems a long time since the last Walker Percy Weekend–one of the sponsors writes for The American Conservative. But I found that the people there were (as usual) thoughtful and interested in hearing other points of view.

  4. Jenny permalink
    June 7, 2017 1:12 pm

    A beautiful poem. And I love your photo. You are not of the Sound Bite Tribe, are you?

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