Sunday, February 8, 2009

W.S. Merwin : "The Blessing" and "Separation"

I once had a friend who now won’t answer when I write.

This is a long story and because I still think that someday (like Jefferson and Adams) we will be friends again I won’t try to postulate in public the whys (except that I am superficial and conventional and she is running so hard - like the man in Merwin’s poem:

The Blessing

There is a blessing on the wide road
the egg shell road the baked highway
there is a blessing an old woman
walking fast following him

pace of a child following him

he left today
in a fast car

until or unless
she is with him
the traffic flows through her
as though she were air
or not there

she can speak only to him
she can tell him
what only he can hear

she can save him

it might be enough

she is hurrying

he is making good time
his breath comes more easily
he is still troubled at moments
by the feeling
that he has forgotten something
but he thinks he is escaping a terrible
This month is the month of her birthday and so I remember her even with the forefront of my brain and even the surface of my heart. It has been six (seven?) years since we were friends and it is no longer true – that other poem of Merwin’s:


Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
Or maybe it is so true that I’m not aware any more of the thread that is her absence running through my days.

What is true is that she is irreplaceable for me.

Which is amazing. I have been so unreasonably blessed with the friendship of remarkable people – friends who have come from faraway to this tucked-away corner of the world, friends who have lived beside me for years before unpacking the treasure that is themselves. New friends and old friends, friends who are related to me by blood and marriage, friends who were strangers when we first meet, friends whom I feel I've known forever.

But none of them are her. None of you are. Irreplaceable all of you, I’m afraid, though (please) let’s not separate and see.

I was going to write this week about Eldest Child pointing out that I am unreliable about meals – sometimes I say I am making something for dinner and then get sidetracked and never start or get involved in an hours-long cooking project. This is true. And at the time, her pointing it out was . . . painful seems too strong a word. But the clear-eyed look she bent on me while explaining why she would make her own dinner before finishing something I wanted her to do was diminishing. However, now weeks later, that is all old news – only this sad old sorrow, this friend gone away from me, still feels fresh.

"Dogsbody" is the title of what I thought I was going to write – about the time my friend and I, when we were still friends, confused the word dogsbody with godsbody and insights resulting therefrom that seemed to apply to my daughter and the diminished I, at the beck and call of every household expectation.

But instead all I can think of is what a stupid hound the heart is – you try to yell at it and order it back home and it whines and cowers back, until you aren’t looking, then bounds up around your heels again, ears flapping, tongue flapping, so glad to be out on the road with a friend.

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