Two amazing poets died this week, W. S. Merwin and Linda Gregg. I have posted several of Merwin’s poems before. Somehow though, I never have posted a poem by Linda Gregg. Here’s a sample:
Death Looks Down
Death looks down on the salmon A male and female in two pools one above the other The female turns back along the path of water to the male does not touch him and returns to the place she had been I know what Death will do Their bodies already sour and ragged Blood has risen to the surface under the scales One side of his jaw is unhinged Death will pick them up Put them away under his coat against his skin and belt them there He will walk away up to the path through the bay trees Through the dry grass of California to where the mountain begins Where a few deer almost the color of the hills will look up until he is under the trees again Where the road ends and there is a gate He will climb over that with his treasure It will be dark by then But for now, he does nothing He does not disturb the silence at all Nor the occasional sound of leaves of ferns touching of grass or stream For now he looks down at the salmon Large and whole Motionless days and nights in the cold water Lying still Always facing the constant motion
This wonderful poet is coming to read here next week. I have posted one of her poems before, but thought I’d post another, from her book “The Dig.” This poem, as many in the book describe a childhood at the edge, with unreliable caretakers. The description of “wringing of every cent from every dollar,” resonated with me, and I love the details of the description.
The Red Kimono
I stare at the brass scarred by beating until it is as bright and uneven as a lake in August when the sun melts all reflections into one wide gold zero, when the sky itself is wide, is hot as the bell that this schoolmaster, inappropriately strict, tips to summon the children from the unrelenting heat of noon. The long tape unrolls from the teeth of the adding machine onto the scarred deal. Over and over the budget unreels and spills, liberated from the sprockets and machinery of will. My mother sits with a pencil and ticks her teeth, we are broke, every avenue of escape is closed, even the car tires at the curb are fat black zeros, all the scheming and coaxing, the wringing of every cent from every dollar, has come to nothing. I watch my mother swab up the dust, her hair tied in a rag, her naked feet, nails bloodied by a tiny brush. Misery, misery, the cranes of good luck hunch at the snowy mountain of her left breast as she bends to set the empties on the step in the housecoat the landlady lent.
I have been wanting to see Louise Bourgeois’ massive bronze spiders at the remodeled San Francisco Modern Museum of Art, and finally got there this week. They were as wonderful as I expected, muscular, dynamic, fun.
The bonus was the Vija Celmins retrospective. Her work starts as representations of single objects (very moving, somehow, painted with love on gray backgrounds) and moves into meticulous graphite representations of the ocean, the desert floor, the night sky. All very tenderly, lovingly done.