In the meantime, I finished Susan's Breen's The Fiction Class this week. I was pleasantly surprised by this book that I pulled off the library shelf without a recommendation. Here is my review.
I'm taking full advantage of Mother's Day today. I've already read a few chapters of John Grisham's The Appeal and taken a nap. When I woke up from my nap, I thought about Li-Young Lee's book of poetry, Rose. I thought I remembered a poem he'd written about his mother. Of course I had to read the whole collection because you can't stop reading Li-Young Lee. The poem I was thinking about is called "Early in the Morning," in which Lee describes the ritual of his mother's hair pinning:
Early in the Morning
While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced
for breakfast, before the birds,
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy
and black as calligrapher's ink.
She sits at the foot of the bed.
My father watches, listens for
the music of comb
My mother combs,
pulls her hair back
tight, rolls it
around two fingers, pins it
in a bun to the back of her head.
For half a hundred years she has done this.
My father likes to see it like this.
He says it is kempt.
But I know
it is because of the way
my mother's hair falls
when he pulls the pins out.
Easily, like the curtains
when they untie them in the evening.
-- Li-Young Lee, ©1986
I love this book, and while the relationship between Lee's mother and father does play prominently throughout, it is the memory of his father that graces nearly every poem, unifying the whole collection. I was first introduced to the poetry of Li-Young Lee in graduate school, and during my time in graduate school he did a reading at the university. I loved the way he read his poems, clearly, softly, lyrically, exactly like his written voice. His imagery is powerful, his language precise and beautiful. My favorite in Rose is called "From Blossoms." For me, growing up in orchards, this poem is the perfect expression of a joyful life:
From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
- Li-Young Lee ©1986
And so. I'm off for a short vacation to Colonial Williamsburg this week, which means a long car trip with Dr. H. driving, the kids watching DVDs, and me reading. I've got a good stack of books to bring with me: The Appeal (Grisham), Paula (Isabel Allende), Astrid and Veronika (Linda Olsson), Kitchen Confidential (Anthony Bourdain), Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank (Celia Rivenbark), Winter Wheat (M. Walker) and New Stories from the South: 2007. I'm so glad I don't get car sick!