Fuel shortages: the tractors standing in the fields, the roads quiet, garages closed. Ambulance services between rural towns cancelled. Everyone shrugging in a phlegmatic almost flip manner, while thinking about private stores of diesel or petrol tucked out of sight in garages and barns against weeks like this. The ongoing press of neo-global shifts and deficiencies, political miscalculations, indifference, ineptitude.
Talking to a friend met crossing the street under green oaks, I was reminded of an earlier meeting, perhaps 12 years ago, her tugging along a small boy reluctant to have his hair trimmed, who surreptitiously pulled faces at my red ridgeback dog. Dog gentle and friendly as ever, a courteous old dog. ‘You have such a detailed memory!’ she said and I thought of the nights spent awake and caught up in old memories, not all traumatic but all freighted with half-wishes and regrets and startling reminders. The great writer William Maxwell comes to mind, a passage copied from an essay he wrote when he was almost 90:
I have liked remembering almost as much as I have liked living. But now it is different, I have to be careful. I can ruin a night’s sleep by suddenly, in the dark, thinking about some particular time in my life. Before I can stop myself, it is as if I had driven a mineshaft down through layers and layers of the past and must explore, relive, remember, reconsider, until daylight delivers me.
But it is out of this disturbed sleep and intense recall that fiction sometimes emerges, the retrieval of what has been forgotten yet holds the key to what matters now as it mattered then. This is what rereading does for me too — the slow detection of what the writer might have meant beyond the eager greedy assumptions made at first read, the patience and excavation needed to unlayer what is so valuable and so alive. Blink and you miss it.
As a poet, I cannot assert that Dickinson composed in stanzas and was careless about line breaks. In the precinct of Poetry, a word, the space around a word, each letter, every mark, silence, or sound volatizes an inner law of form—moves on a rigorous line.
True too of daily routines, the need to cultivate a close attention — this may never come again, this signifies irrevocable change, this is opportunity, this is space spreading out like difference, like a great spreading transparent pool flowing out from a trickle, this what makes for the gossamer connection you need to make sense of fragments and the whole, all of it. The tractors standing there in the unworked field. The broken spider web that flutters at the open window. A friend’s voice stammering with grief on the phone. All of it.