…a poem with notes.
In her book on writing and life Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott devotes a chapter to the topic of index cards. She quotes Henry James, “A writer is someone on whom nothing is lost,” and explains that she keeps cards and pens around the house, and a folded card in her back pocket when she goes out. If she has an idea, or sees or overhears something memorable, she writes it down on her card.
Lamott wrote her book in 1994, before we all started using computers and carrying cell phones. And today I take a lot of notes with my iPhone. But I valued this lesson from Anne’s book, and it served me so well for so long, that I usually still carry cards with me. I prefer 3×5 inch cards, blank on both sides, but that’s not important.
What matters is that the people around us frequently say things so profound, without even meaning to, that their words ring like bells for a long time afterward.
One day, my Dad said to me, “The mums are blooming,” and it just stuck. I wrote it down. And when I looked at it again, I thought of that scene in the movie Phenomenon, where John Travolta says to the little boy, “Everything is on its way to somewhere. Everything.”
Stories About Us
Dad says the mums are blooming
as the tulips fade into summer.
Tomato vines work their random course,
they twine and clutch.
We open the door and go in.
There is a breeze from the open windows
but the day is warm.
What do we become after this?
It’s almost time to stand and go,
drive east against the clock,
keeping low to the land
and finally the sun will rise.
Maybe we should weep a while
first, for everything.
A ritual purge, a chrismation
to purify our souls for high deserts.
After this, we are butterflies
silent among the particles of dust,
there where sunlight falls
into the house in slanted shafts.
Lying on the rug, a child reads stories
to herself, and the stories are all
about us. Outside, an engine strains
to rise and lift away.
Stories About Us by Kyle Kimberlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Here’s the movie scene I mentioned: