* If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in! Come in!
December 10, 2009
Naomi Shihab Nye's boy
I challenge you to watch this and not grin from ear to ear.
'I do it for the joy it brings because I'm a joyful girl. Because the world owes me nothing - we owe each other the world. I do it cause it's the least I can do, I do it cause I learned from you. And I do just because I want to... cause I want to.'
Ani DiFranco This post will be more earnest than I am normally comfortable with.
I recently met someone who, upon finding out I had a blog, asked me why I'd stopped blogging. I mumbled a half-chewed answer about communities, and allergies...I tried to make it sound good, sound right, then drifted off when it didn't. He also asked me why I had started blogging in the first place. This I knew: to have a place to collect my favourite poetry, to share my joy in it with others, and to have an incentive to keep discovering more poetry, new poets. The answer came straight out, clear.
The conversation made me realise that I'd stopped blogging because I had started to become so concerned with who was reading that I'd lost sight of why I was writing. Thank you, F, for asking.
'Say goodbye to the old street that never cared much for you anyway The different-colored doorways you thought would let you in one day Say goodbye to the old building that never tried to know your name... Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye old friend You won't be seeing me again.'
Patty Griffin, 'Useless Desires'
If I go it will be double
'You will find no new lands, you will find no other seas. The city will follow you. You will roam the same streets. And you will age in the same neighborhoods; and you will grow grey in these same houses. Always you will arrive in this city. Do not hope for any other – There is no ship for you, there is no road. As you have destroyed your life here in this little corner, you have ruined it in the entire world.'
"Good things come in small packages." - Japanese man
Yes, so I'm small. It's the first thing people comment on when they meet me/when they later describe me to the police artist. That, and lots of hair (on my head). I get: petite, tiny, little woman, wee (conveniently, also a play on my name) - I've even gotten 'teensy.' My friend La Boop, of forsooth fame – who, although a pain in the ass, is even funnier in person (which is why I keep her around) – is credited with the funniest description of me I've ever heard. It was a few years ago, and I was wondering out loud whether to get my hair cut. Her response: "Well, I love your hair, but sometimes it looks like you're growing on it."
As for the usual barrage of Cairo comments and catcalls, rather than fruitycomparisons, mine always tend towards the 'soghayyar bass 7elw/bass zayy el 3asal' variety. I wonder what gives away my honey-sweetness? Is it the enraged flare of my nostrils, the murder in my eyes? E7taris man ektaraba min al ard*, asshole!
Small people are angry people. To wit:
Alexander the Great Napoleon Hitler Mussolini Stalin Marquis de Sade Sartre Woody Allen
There are many great things about being small, though:
1. You don't have the advantage of periscope vision when in the middle of large crowds of spectators (think concerts, car accidents, etc.) but you can usually - with the God-given gift of elbows - wriggle your way to the front of anything.
2. You don't take up much space: my ability to curl up comfortably on a single (cheap) seat on a plane, bus or train is a frequent source of amusement - I mean, AWE - to sundry travelling companions.
3. You never have to factor in height when choosing men. (i.e. I like tall men, but taller women always bitch me out when I mention this so I keep my preferences quiet.)
I'm five foot one. Here is a children's poem by the weird and wonderful Shel Silverstein. It reminds me that there are others in five feet dire-r straits than myself.
If you were only one inch tall, you'd ride a worm to school. The teardrop of a crying ant would be your swimming pool. A crumb of cake would be a feast And last you seven days at least, A flea would be a frightening beast If you were one inch tall.
If you were only one inch tall, you'd walk beneath the door, And it would take about a month to get down to the store. A bit of fluff would be your bed, You'd swing upon a spider's thread, And wear a thimble on your head If you were one inch tall.
You'd surf across the kitchen sink upon a stick of gum. You couldn't hug your mama, you'd just have to hug her thumb. You'd run from people's feet in fright, To move a pen would take all night, (This poem took fourteen years to write --'Cause I'm just one inch tall).
I am, among other things, an English teacher to adults; a great one, but often recklessly – unadvisedly – creative. I came up with this particular activity in a food-themed class with another group a while ago, with half the students “dispensing” and the other half “smelling”. It worked beautifully, but was an intense experience for all involved – I’d forgotten how intense. And now, here I was, trying it out in a one-to-one class, slowly realising my mistake. The room was hushed, thick with focus, and intimate – way too intimate. Note to self: stick to the coursebook on occasion.
On my way home I remembered, years ago, going to a ‘attar (loose translation: apothecary) in Old Cairo, with someone who was then very special to me. I was bone-tired and didn’t want to be out, but he asked and I couldn’t resist him then. We were in search of the perfect perfume oil blend. I remember the ‘attar dabbing essential oils on the back of my hands, all along the pale vein-streaked skin inside my wrists, and up my inner arms. He was leaning in to sniff jasmine in the crook of my elbow, lavender in the flesh between my thumb and forefinger. We walked out of there after close to two hours, with a tiny bottle, in a drunken haze, heads spinning, nostrils tingling. I looked across at him, with this huge ridiculous dazed smile on his face and that look in his eyes; I must’ve looked the same. It’s not one of my favourite memories of us together – the perfume was for another woman – but definitely one of the most bittersweet.
Today, I got home from my class to this poem (I am not, in the eternal words of Dave Barry, making this up) in my inbox.
'If I were a cinnamon peeler I would ride your bed And leave the yellow bark dust On your pillow. Your breasts and shoulders would reek You could never walk through markets without the profession of my fingers floating over you. The blind would stumble certain of whom they approached though you might bathe under rain gutters, monsoon.
Here on the upper thigh at this smooth pasture neighbour to your hair or the crease that cuts your back. This ankle. You will be known among strangers as the cinnamon peeler's wife.
I could hardly glance at you before marriage never touch you --your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers. I buried my hands in saffron, disguised them over smoking tar, helped the honey gatherers...
When we swam once I touched you in the water and our bodies remained free, you could hold me and be blind of smell. you climbed the bank and said
this is how you touch other women the grass cutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter. And you searched your arms for the missing perfume
what good is it to be the lime burner's daughter left with no trace as if not spoken to in the act of love as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.
You touched your belly to my hands in the dry air and said I am the cinnamon Peeler's wife. Smell me.'
Some of my favourite smells: strawberries; just-ground black pepper: good, earthy, pungent; fresh wet mint leaves (their fragrance is fully released with moisture); minced garlic crackling in hot oil; that sweet smoky smell of burnt candlewick just after a candle’s been blown out – reminds me of childhood birthday cakes. And cinnamon, of course.