I have been thinking about places like Cheshire, Ohio and Martin County, Kentucky these days when we are trying to keep fracking out of our area. The only silver lining is that people of very different political leanings are joined in their opposition to the fracking: Republicans, Democrats, Tea-partiers, and Occupiers . . . which is not to say there are not people who want the money and are not concerned about the consequences. Below are two pieces from Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane on the topic.
Once Dick dreamt he wasn’t married to Jane. He didn’t have two children, and he didn’t live in Spendersville, Ohio. Wherever he walked, whatever street or shop he visited, no one recognized him, and he saw no one he knew. Above him the sky turned to smoke, and people with faces of ghosts drifted aimlessly around him. Where am I? One man pointed to a sign, Cheshire, Ohio. Home of the Cheshire cat, the man said, smiling widely as everything disappeared but his smile.
*Chesire, Ohio is the largest ghost town in the state of Ohio., a town so contaminated by American Electric Power’s massive coal-fueled power plant that when the EPA demanded they burn a lower-sulfur coal, clean up its act and submit to testing standards, the company decided it would be simpler to buy the entire town and silence its citizens.
for all the reporters at Grist.org
Dick never believed those stories about Cheshire, Ohio, a town where people’s skin was burned by sulfuric clouds released from smokestacks. Or those tales of the mountain streams in Martin County, Kentucky and the Big Sandy River between Kentucky and West Virginia where the pollution from mountain top removal caused water to turn black with cold sludge, and all aquatic life was lost. Maybe he’d have believed them if they took place in another world, a third world, like Ecuador or Bolivia, but not in Dick’s world. He dismissed such news as left-wing propaganda, right up there with global warming, endangered species, and mercury pollution (had anyone else read that absurd study claiming that 630,00 children are born in this country each year with mercury blood levels high enough to cause neurological damage?). He mocked the environmentalist’s claims that oil-drilling in the Arctic National Refuge would affect the caribou’s calving season, that herbicides like Atrazine entered the drinking water of the Midwest and caused prostate cancer in men and deformities in frogs, fish and other wildlife such as missing or multiple sets of organs. What did folks want? To give the world to the insects? The frogs?
After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?
The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.
This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.
For my dog, Sadie, will consider me.
For I am the servant of my dog, Sadie, and do duly and daily serve her.
For at the first glance of the glory of Sadie in the East, I worship her in every way.
For this I do by stroking her body.
For this I do by playing tug of war with her.
For Sadie runs and rolls and walks with me.
For having done her daily duty and received my adulation, she begins to consider herself.
For this she does by sleeping.
For first she sleeps in the living room.
For secondly she sleeps in the bedroom.
For thirdly she enters the dining room, taps the bell on the door to go outside, and waits for me to let her out.
For fourthly she chases the black squirrels from the bird feeder.
For fifthly she comes back inside and waits for a biscuit.
For sixthly she lets me wash her paws.
For seventhly she allows me lift her onto my lap for a bit of conversation.
For eighthly she stretches out on the couch and blinks at the sun.
For ninthly she waits for dinner to be served.
For tenthly she takes me for another walk, assuming the weather is suitable.
For on occasion, having consider'd me dull, and the walk, uninteresting, she decides to visit the neighbor instead.
For she allows the neighbor to pat and address her with admiration.
For she allows him to offer her his biscuits.
For neighbors and mailmen rarely forget to offer her their biscuits.
For she knows she must have many biscuits to perform her business.
For when her day's work is done, her business of sleeping begins again.
For she is the queen of sleep.
For she sleeps in the darkness and in the glaring light of day.
For she loves the sun and the sun loves her.
For she loves the night and the night loves her.
For she is an instrument of the love of God.
For she is an instrument of divine benevolence.
For she commanded Moses concerning the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For she is the Messiah.
For every day and house is incomplete without her blessing.
For she blesses the world in her sleep.
For there is nothing sweeter than when she is asleep.
after "For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry"
by Christopher Smart
For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in . . .
A family friend, Eleanor Ross Taylor was a woman I feel lucky to have known. Like my mother, she was beyond unique. To describe her would be impossible. To admire her was natural. She was soft-spoken, brilliant, and impeccably well-mannered, but she was also perhaps the most honest writer I have ever met. I remember returning from college, full of youthful enthusiasm and showing her my poems.
I see, she said, reading them quickly. You have a nice grasp of language, but I haven't a clue what you are writing about. Some poets like this sort of thing, but I am not one of them. I think Greg Orr might like you.
She was 100% right. I felt guilty as charged. My work made little sense, but I liked words.
A few years later she asked me if I was sending my work out. I said not yet, and she chided me, explaining that she had been published because she knew all the right people, but that that didn't do much for the ego. "The ego is very important, especially for women. It's easy to set your goals aside and hide behind your role as a mother." And she quickly added that she was only beginning to take on her own career and send her work out aggressively.
She was the only writer who was willing to describe the politics of the literary world, telling me in unsparing details of the darker side. She felt that success was important, but one should not be too in love with it.
Because she was such a proper and southern lady, I was careful not to show her my early published work for fear of what she might think. But she found me out and wrote to me, telling me that she loved the language in The Book of Orgasms but could not tolerate that awful word, orgasm. Couldn't I come up with another word? Call it a fish or a horse? A question she asked me again, in person, a year later, adding that she, herself, couldn't think of better word for orgasm than orgasm. But she would keep thinking.
What I wish I could describe about her was her quick mind and her unsparing eye . . . her willingness to say the truth even when it was/is dark, as in her poem, "At Your Own Risk":
Blessed are the brave,/ for their skulls shall be crushed/ Blessed are the merciful,/they shall be tortured/ Blessed are the idealistic,/they shall despair/ Blessed are the generous,/their bones will be picked clean/ Blessed are the achievers,/ they shall exchange achievements for life/ Blessed are the accepting,/they shall be buried under a mausoleum of woe
And yet she also had the lighter side:
The fork lived with the knife
and found it hard--for years
took nicks and scratches,
not to mention cuts.
She who took tedium by the ears:
defiant stretched-out lettuce,
He who came down whack.
His conversation, even, edged.
Lying beside him in the drawer
she formed a crazed patina.
The seasons stacked--
melons, succeeded by cured pork.
He dulled; he was a dull knife,
while she was, after all, a fork.
This is a fairly common misconception, that the sun, the moon, and the stars take turns getting close to the earth. I had trouble understanding it at first, but I guess that is what it looks like, right? The sun is close during the day, the moon at night. Duh!
The first time I heard Yeats, I was recovering from eye surgery that did not go well. The doctor simply could not wake me up. I remember the feeling of being under water, trying to surface, and then going under again and again. I remember finally waking and seeing my mother, terrified, by my bed. She was reading aloud from a collected book of poetry to pass the time. I didn't understand the poems, but I felt well enough to respond with two lines. And this, of course, meant I was truly awake again. She was so excited, she repeated my lines a few times and read the poem again. The poem has always sounded a little to me like the feeling of being under anesthesia with Druids and dreams and a Fergus lurking around.
TO THE RUDE NOSE UPON THIS FACE OF MINE
Red nose, freckled nose, rude nose of all my days!
Get away from my eyes, Nose, so that I may see a new way.
My lines make sense only if you are cross-eyed, and you are hoping that the operation has cured you.
TO THE ROSE UPON THE ROOD OF TIME
by: William Butler Yeats
RED Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!
Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways:
Cuchulain battling with the bitter tide;
The Druid, grey, wood-nurtured, quiet eyed,
Who cast round Fergus dreams, and ruin untold;
And thine own sadness, whereof stars, grown old
In dancing silver-sandalled on the sea,
Sing in their high and lonely melody.
Come near, that no more blinded by man's fate,
I find under the boughs of love and hate,
In all poor foolish things that live a day,
Eternal beauty wandering on her way.
Come near, come near, come near -- Ah, leave me still
A little space for the rose-breath to fill!
Lest I no more hear common things that crave;
The weak worm hiding down in its small cave,
The field-mouse running by me in the grass,
And heavy mortal hopes that toil and pass;
But seek alone to hear the strange things said
By God to the bright hearts of those long dead,
And learn to chaunt a tongue men do not know
Come near; I would, before my time to go,
Sing of old Eire and the ancient ways:
Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days.
Under the January sunlight the water
mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming creek . . .
a few Poland ducks.
Not much of a parody, but "The Wild Swans at Coole" is a poem I think of when I look at the trees, the reflections, and when I wish the paths were dry! It's so wet, the trees are rotting at the roots. Every time there's a big wind (like today), a few trees topple over. Huge sycamores block the trails.
There's also a bid to frack under the park here as well, which worries me.
The Wild Swans at Coole
THE TREES are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans . . .
And the last stanza, which I can't not include . . .
But now they drift on the still water
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes, when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?
The first time I heard this, I thought, No way. People don't really
think . . .
But then a high school physics teacher told me that quite a few of her students also think that all rivers flow from north to south . . .
It's been impossibly blue and beautiful here lately. I know the snow is coming, that this can't last . . .
These are photos from my daily dog walk. I love these sycamore trees, and I love staring at the water, any water, creeks, rivers, lakes, the sea . . .
Of course this is just a variation on the Langston Hughes poem, "Evil," which I love.
This poem reminds me of my personality to the max. As a girl (with strabismus and pink glasses, as depicted in the picture), I was always the one persisting in some irritating enterprise ad nauseum . . .
So now, as a theoretical adult, I keep thinking I am going to take a break from parodies, and I think I can.
GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Nin Andrews is the author of 5 full collections of poetry and 6 chapbooks. She is also the editor of a book of translations of the Belgian poet, Henri Michaux. Her literary comics are posted on Best American Poetry's Blog on Monday mornings.