Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Living, we cover vast territories

Night Driving by TheScribbleFiles

First Gestures
By Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Among the first we learn is good-bye, 
your tiny wrist between Dad's forefinger 
and thumb forced to wave bye-bye to Mom, 
whose hand sails brightly behind a windshield. 
Then it's done to make us follow:
in a crowded mall, a woman waves, "Bye, 
we're leaving," and her son stands firm 
sobbing, until at last he runs after her, 
among shoppers drifting like sharks 
who must drag their great hulks 
underwater, even in sleep, or drown.

Living, we cover vast territories; 
imagine your life drawn on a map-- 
a scribble on the town where you grew up, 
each bus trip traced between school 
and home, or a clean line across the sea 
to a place you flew once. Think of the time 
and things we accumulate, all the while growing 
more conscious of losing and leaving. Aging, 
our bodies collect wrinkles and scars 
for each place the world would not give 
under our weight. Our thoughts get laced 
with strange aches, sweet as the final chord 
that hangs in a guitar's blond torso.

Think how a particular ridge of hills 
from a summer of your childhood grows
in significance, or one hour of light-- 
late afternoon, say, when thick sun flings 
the shadow of Virginia creeper vines 
across the wall of a tiny, white room 
where a girl makes love for the first time. 
Its leaves tremble like small hands 
against the screen while she weeps 
in the arms of her bewildered lover. 
She's too young to see that as we gather 
losses, we may also grow in love; 
as in passion, the body shudders 
and clutches what it must release.


It's funny.  The whole summer when I was 14 (that is, the summer of 2001) is really sort of a blur.  A surreal, odd blur of car rides curled up in the back of a van watching trees go by on the way to Pennsylvania -- home, home, the steady beat of home -- and back again (despair).  We had moved from the place I'd spent pretty much all the important bits of my pre-teen life, moved to Virginia, near Chincoteague (we would later move to the island itself and learn the valuable lesson of Never Live Where You Used To Vacation), a place called Accomac.  It was rural, and lonely, and I shared a room with my two younger brothers (we made wall partitions out of stacked boxes).  That summer we spent hours a) going to pottery class, b) playing badminton and c) playing volleyball.  I also spent hours at the library down the street, my one real good solace in that it was literally down the street so I could ride my bike there and back whenever I wanted to (a small miracle, in that the only other things around were a gas station, post office, city hall court, chicken factory and boat/tackle store).  That summer is full of humidity, the smell of chickens (from the nearby chicken factory, joy), and The Tombs of Atuan (the library did not have the full cycle of Earthsea, so that's where I started, and stayed for a while as I read and re-read).  And it's full of teenage frustration and teenage loneliness and teenage anger at one's parents, goodbyes said again and again with each visit and retreat, car trips "the long way" instead of the highway, winding at night through blackened quiet towns back to the Virginia I hated while listening to Vertical Horizon's anthems in my crappy CD player (I had carefully taped a picture of Han Solo and the words "You hear me baby? Hold together!" on it)...and that quiet, dusty, rural library.  

I found my card for it the other day.  It's signature on the back of the card looked so...childish.  And I didn't feel like a child.  I felt like an angry, lonely young woman.

Is that little library the reason I want to work in libraries now?  I don't know.  I liked libraries plenty before that.  I was no stranger.  But maybe just a little bit, in the subconscious part of my brain, I still connect that library with the feeling of escape.  At any rate, I know I would have been even *more* miserable than I already was (and probably an even more miserable roommate than I already was, sorry bros).  

I still associate Vertical Horizon with those long car rides to my old home and back again.   "Living, we cover vast territories" is by far one of my favorite poems because it really...hits the nail on the head in the words used, the ache, and it resonates with me really, really deeply.  Artwork, poems, music, these things all combine in this collage of...whisps of memory?  An arc of memory.  On one hand, it's not too terribly important.  I was 14, and while it took 10 years for me to really love Virginia, I do now.  Not that it negates anything I felt back then, but at the same time, it's always a little odd to drive around listening to Vertical Horizon (the same CD -- the CD player did eventually break down, but the disc itself lives on in my collection) in the summertime.  

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