for a life that is real

Hello, dear friends. I know it’s been a while since my last post — almost a year. Sometimes we have to wander a little bit before we come back to what we know and love. In my case, my truest loves are poetry and music.

beach_hat

Bluffer’s Beach in August, 2014

Since we last spoke, I moved to Toronto and I’ve been living here for nine months now, but I feel like I’ve always been here; this place has been a part of me before I even looked out my apartment window on St. Clair Ave.

The people, the voices of friends calling to each other, the cacophony of blaring horns, screeching tires, music playing in the streets, the way the afternoon sun punches through the clouds, the hush of a September morning, and the smell of fresh rain; these things I will always remember.

I was walking down St. Clair Ave West and Dufferin St, when I realized there’s only one thing I want now. It isn’t happiness, wealth, fame, or even peace of mind. What I really want is this: I want a life that is real.

Happiness
Susan Griffin

Happiness. I am not used
to this. (There is always
something wrong.)
Look at it
the bright early tree.
(I am trying to find out
how you fell.)
The leaves have already turned.
(I want you to see
this, how they
glow outside the glass.)
Morning light strikes
differently. For so
many years I hardly
had time to know such
moments. They struck me
with such intensity
I would have said
battered me open.
I never understood
they were mine.
I was panicked.
Unhappiness caught up with me
all the time.
Did you know
the speed of light never alters
even when you go faster
it will be
still that much faster
than you?
(I am thinking that in your fall
something momentous occurred.)
What I see as beautiful
I want you to see too.
Next door, the workmen are hammering.
Very soon we’ll go to lunch.
For some reason this moves me to tears.
How life is.
(One does not have to explain
what occurs. One only need say
it has meaning.)
Years ago, when I was young
I traveled to Italy, took in
the great sights. I was in awe, yet
I did not understand
seeing Masaccio’s frescoes
fading like shadows into the walls,
this would be the only time
nor that
I would never forget.
Those muted shades are
still with me, as possession
and longing, and the view too
of the square before that church
the air, newly spring,
that day, all of it.
Life, I have finally begun to realize,
is real.
(All this time you recover
from falling
will sink indelibly into mind.)
The leaves
may fall before you are able
to see them. Science
has recently learned
the line
of existence is soft
and stretches out like a field
wind and light shaping the grass
energy
of sight giving consciousness
force. In the meantime
we live out our lives.
(This morning we talked for so long
everything became lucid.
How can I say what I see?)
At each turning
perfection eludes me.
One moment is not like another.
Last spring
the house next door caught fire.
There was the smell of gas.
We thought
both houses would go.
I vanished up the hill,
went to the house of a friend
where we listened for flames
and to that aria from Italian
opera, was it the one of love,
or jealousy, or grief?
My house was untouched.
Now the one next door is painted,
fixed. In place of
perfection, the empty hands
I turned out to the world
are filled.
With what? A letter
half written, the notes
I make on this page,
this new feeling about my shoulders
of age, that sad child’s story
you told me this morning,
the workmen’s tools sounding
and stopping. What? As time
moves through me, does it also
move through you?
I keep remembering what you said,
ways you have of seeing (and that
light must have curved with
you fall.) This
is the paradox of vision:
Sharp perception softens
our existence in the world.

1986

Susan Griffin, “Happiness” from Bending Home: Selected and New Poems. Copyright © 1998 by Susan Griffin. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townshend, WA 98368-0271, coppercanyonpress.org.

Read more about this poem and poet on the Poetry Foundation website: http://bit.ly/16iQxIs

I love you. I’m glad I exist.

Sometimes we forget to appreciate the ordinary, everyday things. This poem reminds us to take a moment, look around, and realize how lucky we really are. It’s so simple. So good.

The Orange, Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

For the one I love most lay sleeping by me

When I Heard at the Close of Day, Walt Whitman

When I heard at the close of the day how my name had been
    receiv'd with plaudits in the capitol, still it was not a happy
    night for me that follow'd,
And else, when I carous'd, or when my plans were accomplish'd,
    still I was not happy,
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect health,
    refresh'd, singing, inhaling the ripe breath of autumn,
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and disappear in
    the morning light,
When I wander'd alone over the beach, and undressing bathed,
    laughing with the cool waters, and saw the sun rise,
And when I thought my dear friend my lover was on his way
    coming. O then I was happy,
O then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my food
    nourish'd me more, and the beautiful day pass'd well,
And the next came with equal joy, and with the next at evening
    came my friend,
And that night while all was still I heard the waters roll slowly
    continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands as directed to me
    whispering to congratulate me,
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover in
    the cool night,
In stillness in the autumn moonbeams his face was inclined
    toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast—and that night I was
    happy

Good Poems, Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor (2002)