Prompt: Tie together the Fourth of July, garbage day and a sense of the possibility of renewal.
Make it spontaneous, so it doesn’t seem that the images preceded the prompt. Don’t dwell too deeply on recent observations that came while practicing poet’s observation, though you might want to show off that you’ve been able to look again. (The fluff of airborne dust drifts, stops and starts, halting, as an indie band, as a shiny bubble that a child has blown through a plastic hoop, until you realize the fluff has a moth’s indelible wings and is flying freely, for fun).
Independence Day (or Interdependence Day, as I’ve heard it called): The country has been thrust back on me. I’d left it countless times, then straddled between two countries, then made a life of motion. But circumstances being what they are, I am simply facing it, America…
posthumous, finished, junked, done — or part of the process of rising and passing that covid-19 has made us so aware of? A “Finale for America” as clever wits have referred to rogue fireworks that have been exploding nightly? In recent weeks and months I have agreed. But the 4th gave me — what — freedom of stuckness. I looked kindly on things; it wasn’t forced, it just happened.
I thought about the Declaration of Independence and read, along with many, Frederick Douglass’ bracing famous 4th of July address: “You may rejoice. I must mourn.” The polyvocalism of these declarations of values – that we are living in the polyvocalism – unstuck me from singularity. The truth and reconciliation process we’ve so long needed might be here. I listened to the very best of American song — the sinuous pairing of elegant contrast, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald duets. In a flight from nihilism, there are ways to combine the large and small.
Look how beautiful the day after – peony petals against a pile of oyster shells. They are dissociated from their meaning — yet in this time of appreciating passage, the wisdom songs of covid as well as garbage day, here they are. The flowers had been flush and full, the oysters a marvel. The energy of passage keeps us from getting stuck. The poet Alice Oswald talks about this in her new Oxford lecture, “An Interview with Water.” Poetry, dance, rhythm and water all keep us moving. Then there’s the leaping between odd things – country, trash and renewal – that keeps the mind buzzing.
To listen to Oswald’s lecture, go to the home page, english.ox.ac.uk