Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Poem at Literary Mama

Online literary magazine Literary Mama has been kind enough to publish my poem "Libation" in the June (Father's day) issue. The magazine, which "features writing by mother writers about the complexities and many faces of motherhood," inspires me because the editors welcome literature which is somehow outside the normative or typical accounts of parenthood which are so prevalent in mainstream media. Literary Mama asks for writing that "may be too long, too complex, too ambiguous, too deep, too raw, too irreverent, too ironic, and too body conscious for other publications" (About Us). You can access "Libation" here, but please look around the website and explore some of the mag's other features. Thanks to the editors for accepting my work again this year


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Marvell's Mower and Me

As I was mowing the grass tonight, I started thinking about Marvell and his mower poems, and I wanted to reread them.  I used to hate mowing the grass.  My sister and I both did-- the stink of the gasoline, the itch of the grass blades, hidden perils like anthills and bees-- all conspired to make us fight over who had to mow.  To solve the problem, my parents fairly and squarely decided we'd set the timer (oh, the timer) and each mow ten minutes so that neither would become too fatigued.  Being the oldest, I went first, which suited me.  I got my first shift out of the way, then relaxed while Natalie toiled.  Clutching my lemonade, I thought I'd check on her progress, so I peeked out the kitchen window, and what I saw is forever etched in my mind.  There was Natalie, practically dragged by the mower, her too-big safety goggles askance, her too-big hand-me-down mowing shoes nearly falling off, crying so hard she could barely see (if seeing were even a possibility through those "safety" goggles we had to wear).  It occurred to me to laugh, but I didn't.  I was just so shocked that a person could be so upset over mowing the lawn.  Even though I hated it, too, I realized at that moment that it couldn't really be that bad.

I don't know what this has to do with the poem, except to explain that I now love to mow.  It helps a lot that we now have a reel mower (non-gasoline powered).  And I am the opposite of Marvell's speaker; to me, contemplation and mowing go hand in hand.  And, most importantly, if I am mowing, no one can mow me.  My husband tried to take over for me tonight, but I shooed him away.  "That's my job!" I said, directing him to the baby, who stood at the precipice of a newly-dug compost hole, hoe in hand.  Out there, it's just me and the grass.  Push, push, turn, push.  I love the rhythm and the exertion of it.  And I love when it's finished.  Such a clear goal with a clear endpoint.

And so, for your mowing, I mean, reading pleasure, I present Andrew Marvell's "The Mower's Song":

My mind was once the true survey
      Of all these meadows fresh and gay,
      And in the greenness of the grass
      Did see its hopes as in a glass;
      When Juliana came, and she
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.

      But these, while I with sorrow pine,
      Grew more luxuriant still and fine,
      That not one blade of grass you spy’d
      But had a flower on either side;
      When Juliana came, and she
What I do to the grass, does to me thoughts and me.

      Unthankful meadows, could you so
      A fellowship so true forgo?
      And in your gaudy May-games meet
      While I lay trodden under feet?
      When Juliana came, and she
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.

      But what you in compassion ought,
      Shall now by my revenge be wrought;
      And flow’rs, and grass, and I and all,
      Will in one common ruin fall.
      For Juliana comes, and she
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.

      And thus, ye meadows, which have been
      Companions of my thoughts more green,
      Shall now the heraldry become
      With which I shall adorn my tomb;
      For Juliana comes, and she
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.

(from The Poetry Foundation website)