Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Where the World Is

I migrate from one office to the next with some regularity--at least once a year for the past seven years--and though it can take me a while to settle in, one of the first things I do is transport some books. It's just not "my space" without them. I put mainly poetry on my shelf, but also some prose: even though I never have time to re-read it, I still like to glance up and see some of these books near at hand. A quick sampling of what's on my office shelf includes Robin Becker's The Horse Fair, Joe Bolton's The Last Nostalgia, Norman Dubie's Radio Sky, Roger Fanning's The Island Itself, Rigoberto Gonzalez's So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water until It Breaks, Linda Gregg's The Sacraments of Desire, Kimiko Hahn's The Artist's Daughter, Terrance Hayes' Hip Logic, Lyna Hull's Star Ledger, Cynthia Macdonald's Living Wills, Dionisio Martinez's History As a Second Language, Molly McQuade's Barbarism, and Adam Zagajewski's Canvas; in prose, I can't live without Flannery O'Connor's The Habit of Being or Adrienne Rich's What Is Found There. This is just a smattering of the books here in my office, and though I rarely have time to pull one down and read a page (or poem) or two, I feel better knowing they're around.

I have one small shelf in my other office. It's loaded with about ninety chapbooks.
* * *

I became a fan of Janet Kauffman's stories back in my Houston days, when someone recommended Places in the World a Woman Can Walk. I was excited to find a book of her poems, Where the World Is, at Half Price Books in Houston back in 1995--in February, to be exact--and if I have nothing else to thank Tim Liu for, I'm still glad that he got rid of this book (his name's inscribed inside the cover). I've worn this book out. It travels from office to office. Here's one of the poems:

Watching the Body

They know it’s not death, this yellowing
shaking in sleep, the nurses and fathers,
the husbands who sit in small chairs or travel
room to room. They know that the body is healing.

They believe that it heals throughout a cold night
while the garden is blackening, wherever it is, low in a hollow.
The dark of tomato and pumpkin vines, the armfuls
of spined leaves, blink into ghost and black paper.

They say when the body is healed and walking
deliberately through green grass, and down the long hill
into the garden that’s gone, it will lift up these vines
and find for itself a tomato, some few, under leaves,

red and whole, they promise it, untouched
by any veil, or obliteration. But the body, the stubborn bride,
sends her kisses around the room, aimless, incontrovertible.
She’ll walk in her flesh until it has all but worn away.

: Janet Kauffman, Where the World Is (1988)

[photo: snow on geranium]

1 comment:

Nels said...

"and if I have nothing else to thank Tim Liu for"

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!!!