One Secret Thing

I just read Sharon Olds’ newest book of poetry, One Secret Thing. I think Olds is one of the best poets working today and often think of her affectionately as the literary daughter of the three women I wrote my thesis on (Sexton, Rich, Kumin).
This most recent book is a meditation on motherhood and daughterhood, and describes in luminous, deeply sad detail the process of watching her mother die. Michael Ondaatje’s blurb on the back of the book says it far better than I could (and his words are, also, I think, gorgeous):

Sharon Olds’ s poems are pure fire in the hands – risky, on the verge of falling, and in the end leaping up. I love the roughness and humor and brag and tenderness and completion in her work as she carries the reader through rooms of passion and loss.

The poem called One Secret Thing dwells on the intimate physical details of the end of life and reminds me of when Nana was so sick. Watching Mum take care of her and nurse her was deeply moving, something I will never forget. How I wish Nana had known Gracie.

The poem called When Our Firstborn Slept In contains a line that reminds me of the early days of Grace’s life:

…Girl of a mother,
mother of a girl, I paced, listening,
almost part-fearing, sometimes …

This reminds me of the memory I’ve cited before of trying to sleep while Mum walked with infant Grace above my head. I’m thinking of Grammy and Nana and Mum and Grace today. The thoughts are unformed and inarticulate, but so am I!

Peace despite the precipice

From one of my favorite blogs (sweet/salty by Kate Inglis):

I suppose strength is seeing peace despite seeing the precipice. To surrender to its inevitability, and to be grateful despite it.


This Eddie Vedder soundtrack from Into the Wild just keeps growing on me (also have been listening to Juno constantly). I particularly like the songs Rise and Guaranteed. Lyrics to Guaranteed:

On bended knee is no way to be free
Lifting up an empty cup, I ask silently
All my destinations will accept the one that’s me
So I can breathe…

Circles they grow and they swallow people whole
Half their lives they say goodnight to wives they’ll never know
A mind full of questions, and a teacher in my soul
And so it goes…

Don’t come closer or I’ll have to go
Holding me like gravity are places that pull
If ever there was someone to keep me at home
It would be you…

Everyone I come across, in cages they bought
They think of me and my wandering, but I’m never what they thought
I’ve got my indignation, but I’m pure in all my thoughts
I’m alive…

Wind in my hair, I feel part of everywhere
Underneath my being is a road that disappeared
Late at night I hear the trees, they’re singing with the dead

Leave it to me as I find a way to be
Consider me a satellite, forever orbiting
I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me

Running for those fabulous countries

“George Orwell once said something about how childhood necessarily creates a false map of the world but it’s the only map we’ve got … and no matter how old we are, at the first sign of trouble, we take off running for those fabulous countries. It’s like that for me.”

Preface to The Middle Place, Kelly Corrigan

Mountains beyond mountains

“The idea that some lives matter less than others is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.”
A closing quote in Mountains Beyond Mountains, which I finished this morning. The sentiment encapsulates Paul Farmer’s guiding philosophy (in my view). Tracy Kidder does a marvelous job portraying Farmer as a real man, full of contradictions and complexities. It would be easy to deify him, but Kidder resists that. Nevertheless, the book is inspiring and worth the read. I also love the Haitian adage from which the title is taken:
Beyond mountains there are mountains.