Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Poetry Thursday 5/31/2007: Moon and Peacock

Theme: Rivers

Note: The little old towns I mention in the poem, Paradise and Garberville, are in Northern California. I'm a fourth-generation Californian now displaced, but I remember these towns through the eyes of a child. In those days, they were tiny, pristine, almost abandoned places, laden with gold-mining history and fable, hardly populated, struggling like ghost towns. Nowadays I imagine that they have become overrun by tourism. I'd rather not know, and like them the way they are in my memory.

Also . . . it's kinda funny how lyrics beget lyrics.

Moon & Peacock

for my mother

I scooted across green kitchen linoleum while
Mother ironed my eyelet pinafores
listening to the radio
Mancini’s “Moon River.”
As iron's steam floats ceilingward,
she sings,
. . . wider than a mile.
I’m crossing you in style

our one and only roadtrip
to the pines of Paradise to see my grandmother.
To the car’s static AM, we sing
. . . two drifters, off to see the world
there’s such a lot of world to see.

our second only roadtrip
Garberville, California.
We didn’t see the Lost Coast,
didn’t visit old-growth forests,
didn’t know about the Avenue of the Giants or
bright-yellow banana slugs on the green forest floor
beneath ferns.
Dad wouldn't go anywhere
or see anything.

We didn't have a hotel room
just a car.

We found our dinner
at the Benbow Inn
on the Eel River,
startled by peacocks’ flapping menace in trees and shrubs,
alarmed by their catlike may-awe,
their legs strutting among ours on the terrace and on green ground,
flashing, unfurling
unprecedented, embarrassing
feathered opulence.

We walked a curve along the Eel after sunset.
A searing moon rose through the trees
its light severing a path on water that ended
between our pairs of feet.

our third only roadtrip:
she, marooned on a hospital bed.
We rifled through the cache of jewelry she wanted me to have
when she was terminal.
Spreading them on a green tray
she narrated each piece.
The best:
a gold stickpin,
peacock sitting on the moon.

Her final trip,
not mine,
she said,
You wear it on this side
after I cross the river. I'll be
. . . waitin’ round the bend
my Huckleberry friend.

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At 5/31/2007 10:39 AM, Blogger pepektheassassin said...

I enjoyed reading this very touching poem.

(I once had an old boyfriend who sang that song to me, but he unintentionally--but significantly--changed the words to "Werever you're going, you're going my way..." Well, I didn't.)

At 5/31/2007 11:32 AM, Blogger chicklegirl said...

I loved the nostalgia of this, the song lyrics, and especially the part about the pin--heartbreaking. And you ended with my favorite line from "Moon River"! This was beautiful.

At 5/31/2007 12:19 PM, Blogger Nancy said...

It's beautiful. I love the detail of it. And the song, which was one of my father's favorites. I hadn't thought of it for awhile, but it has so many feelings associated with it. You've worked it into the poem so well. It's very moving.

At 5/31/2007 3:11 PM, Blogger Rob Kistner said...

...we're after the same rainbow's end...

Thank you, I will now sing this all day it's what I do when I'm moved -- and you moved me.

At 5/31/2007 3:30 PM, Blogger Remiman said...

Nicely done. That song has special significance for me; my dad sang it on stage in an ameteur production and then a year or so later I soloed it during my high school vocal concert.
Although your poem at first evokes a sadness i hear a transendent love here between a mother and daughter.

At 5/31/2007 3:39 PM, Blogger bookbinds said...

A wonderfully evocative poem, rich with sensory images that really draw the reader in.

At 5/31/2007 4:11 PM, Blogger paris parfait said...

What a fantastic poem, rich in detail and imagery! I love how "Moon River" is woven throughout the narrative. Very sad bit about the pin.

At 5/31/2007 5:42 PM, Blogger jim said...

I so appreciate the specificity of the names, places, memory--it's a generous impulse in poetry that allows the reader to accompany the poet, to see this world. And the narrative strand is held up so finely by the short, lyrical lines. And yes, how can you possibly go wrong in bringing in "Moon River" at the end.

At 5/31/2007 10:36 PM, Blogger sputnik said...

You're all so great, thanks. Since 1992 I've wept whenever I heard "Moon River," but never knew why until this prompt forced me to prod. I'm so grateful. Thanks for taking that leap with me.

pepek--Hee! I hope you're happy you didn't.

chicklegirl--Almost didn't release it because all through revising I kept crying looking at the pin. Thanks for letting me know the pin sort of held it together when I couldn't.

Nancy--Yep, I think the song, even though it's very simple that a preschooler could memorize it, is enormously evocative to those who've heard it.

Rob--Great! Singe the river song! It's wonderful taht our global, communal poetic energies are all thinking on this single, merging theme.

Rel--Awesome! My son is a vocal music major at a performing arts high school. I wish I could get him to sing it to me. But maybe it's not so suited for a bass (as in basso, not the fish). No, that can't be right. I'd love to hear Paul Robeson do it. (Wrong river.)

bookbinds--Thanks. I always worry that what I think I see is only peculiar to me and will be nonsense to all others.

paris--Yes, I found the pin bit the saddest, too; but it's also very happy because I have it and every time I see it or wear it as she told me, it evokes happy memories.

jim--"generous impulse"--you've hit the nail precisely on the head!

At 6/01/2007 1:56 AM, Blogger Crafty Green Poet said...

Very touching especially the detail of the song (my parents love Moon River too)

At 6/01/2007 1:58 AM, Blogger Crafty Green Poet said...

I also like the fact that there are peacocks in the narrative as well as on the pin, tying the pin to specific memories.

At 6/02/2007 1:00 AM, Blogger ...deb said...

Beautiful and wrenching. The poetry's memories are so spare and yet rich. The tension with the father, sleeping in a car--not explaining, letting it sit. The mother's words, aching.

I remember Moon River, too (and hear Andy Williams singing it--though it was in the Tammy movie, right?) and once canoed (part of) the Eel for a week with friends, in another life.

Thank you~

At 6/04/2007 3:22 PM, Blogger Nance said...

love the word choice here, especially in the narration about the moonlit walk along the river and the description of the first glimpse of the peacocks' plumage. i also love the restraint in the tone. you perfectly capture feeling without getting sappy or overtly sentimental. that is extremely difficult. the reader is able to share in the poignancy of the moment without feeling as an intruder, but a quiet visitor. well done (from a demanding creative writing instructor whose students swear "her red pen is full of our blood!!")


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