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Meet the Beatles
May 26th, 2012 by alexfaye

 

My first love outside of the tight ring of family was Ringo Starr.

In 1964, I went to first grade at Saint Michael’s Academy, dressed daily in a grey jumper with white blouse, a white undershirt (my Navy dad, out on destroyers for half the year, called them “skivy shirts”), with black and white saddle oxfords on my feet, and clean white socks. My mother held my hand as we walked to school together, and I remember her quick kiss at the gate before she ran back up the hill to catch the bus, headed downtown to her job in a commercial laundry.

So it wasn’t the parish priest, Father Frederick, or my beloved teacher, Mother Conception, or my parents who brought Ringo Starr to my attention.  It was my sister, Vicki, 19 and just graduated from Cathedral High School.  Vicki wore mascara and a bra; Vicki had a boyfriend.  She talked on the phone for hours with her best friend Gloria, and together they played guitar and sang songs by the Kingston Trio, Peter Paul and Mary, and Joan Baez.  It was Vicki who brought the aptly titled LP home:  Meet the Beatles.

The cover art featured stark black and white photography of John, George, Paul and Ringo, dressed in black turtlenecks and with identical mop top haircuts.  They are each lit so that half of their face remains in shadow. My handsome father sneered at their appearance, mocking their long hair and doleful faces.  And the music — it was incomprehensible, silly.  A few months earlier, President Kennedy had been shot right out of his Dallas motorcade.  My father did not approve, and my mother never, ever broke ranks.

It slowly began to dawn on my blooming first-grade mind that liking the Beatles was going to separate me from them, my beloved parents, who knew everything and who ran the world.  To like the Beatles (when they did not) was a small, rebellious act for a Catholic girl in the first grade — a girl just learning to read, learning to add and subtract.  Add the Beatles; subtract my parents.  A tiny equation, secretive, and a little dangerous.  I tried it, and nothing happened.  They didn’t even seem to know that the Beatles were mine, and not theirs.

It was clear, even then, that Paul was the pretty one, and Ringo, not even in line with the others, but positioned below, by himself, was the one with the saddest eyes, and a big and irregular nose — my father had a big nose, too — so it seemed to me that he was not going to be adored, like the others, who sang and played guitars.  On stage too, he was behind the others, alone, keeping the beat.  I don’t remember deciding to love him.  It was more like I had to love him, because if I didn’t, who would? I lit a torch for Ringo Starr and carried it quietly, hot inside my heart.

The Beatles broke up in 1970; I was in junior high.  Love for the now-defunct band matured and ripened through high school, and I plastered my walls with images from their short career, in various incarnations: a painting of the four as members of an ancient British court; the boys joyously leaping in the air in their promo shot for “Help!”; Sergeant Pepper (the band clad in elaborately decorated, neon-colored military jackets with fat brass buttons); the pen and ink artwork from Revolver; the puzzle of the Abbey Road cover (the theory that Paul was dead allegedly confirmed there in the symbolism of that photo); the four glossy head shots from the White Album; the Beatles as desperados from the single release of “Get Back;” and finally, a shot from that final, heartbreaking rooftop concert, Let It Be.  The images surrounded me, entered me somehow as I listened to the albums again and again, and although I’ve been smitten hundreds of times since then, the boys are still there, 48 years since Meet the Beatles, embedded in my psyche, the soundtrack of youth, first rebellion and first love.

“There is just no way you’re the pine scented air”
May 22nd, 2011 by alexfaye

I went to see Billy Collins read  the other night.  He’s a favorite of mine, and I guess most people who pay attention to poetry have heard something by former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins — he’s straight forward, sweet, funny and observant.
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I had read this poem before, but I came to appreciate it more after hearing him talk about it and read it.  In the poem “Litany,” Collins is poking gentle fun of love poetry that (over)uses imagery from nature to describe the beloved.  Shakespeare did this too when he wrote Sonnet 130, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun…”  So Billy Collins is continuing in this tradition, and he took the first two lines from a poem, and explained that he, “rewrote the poem, as a courtesy …something that poets must do for one another from time to time.”
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You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine…
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.

And now, the real reason that I am posting this here — something that will make me happy for the rest of my life.
——–
ADDENDUM:  Actually, watching this is a poignant reminder of impermanence.   It’s been almost 18 months since this child’s mother recorded that video.  This boy is gone — along with his unique, heart rending pronunciation of “grass,” “shooting star,” “moon,” “trees,” and “teacup.”  One reason I listen to this is to hear his voice say to me, “But don’t worry…”  And then I reflect on impermanence.
A Tree Poem/a Love Poem
Aug 14th, 2010 by alexfaye

A Tree Poem/a Love Poem, Alexandra Fletcher 2010

inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke

I’m no beautiful flower, sweet and delicate, swaying in the breeze.

This here is a trunk.

Run your bike into a flower, and it’s the flower who will lose.

Run your bike into me, baby, and I’ll stop you cold.

I’ll bend your rim.

This body is not slender and green. I am all knots and broken-ness.

But just see if you can move me.

Go ahead.  Try.

You’ll breakasweat bendyourback blisteryourhands

digging so deep deep so down

fighting to unloose me from places you didn’t know I could go.

It’ll take all day.  Don’t bother.  Just rest here where I rest. Stand.

Lean. String a bed up in these branches and let go. Sleep.

You see, I don’t love like a flower loves, with just one season of life behind me,

the future uncertain, all heady fragrance and shocking beauty in the right now right now.

Love like sap and history floods my body.

I have survived the fire

the drought

the blight.

Something every year.

Even so love rushes up from one thousand long and tangled places, wills me to make something familiar yet entirely new.

So yeah, that’s right.

I have birds in my hair and

I eat light for breakfast.

But when I turn it on, I’m the interplay of death and life,

I’m shelter,

I’m shade.

You could do worse.

My Mexican Notebook
Oct 23rd, 2009 by alexfaye

Today in my big classroom cabinet, I found the notebook that I kept in the summer of 2002, when Maddy and I went to Puebla, Mexico to study Spanish.  It’s a pleasure to see my old notes: vocabulary, diary entries, exercises, idioms and tongue twisters, all in Spanish.  Here’s a couple of tongue twisters, or trabalenguas:

Tres triste tigres tragaban trigo en un trigal.  En un trigal tragaban trigo tres triste tigres.

Erre con erre cigarro/erre con erre barrile/rapidas corren y rueden/las rapidas reudas del ferrocarril.

I left the notebook out on a table, and began my teaching day.  During 5th period, my student Jonathan Fajardo handed me my notebook, open to a poem I wrote, and said, “I like this.  You ought to publish it.”  I had completely forgotten it:

I would like to be in a circus,

a circus of middle age.

If I could, I’d wear a long red wig

purple stockings, and my heart

on my sleeve,

like now, but more obvious.

I would blow kisses to babies

frighten the young

and tenderly embrace the old.

If I could, I would dance on a wire

to express my hopes and fears,

gaze down at upturned faces

and throw candy

into their midst.

I would sing a song

to erase regret

and teach it to everyone.

I would throw the balls high into the air

to remind the young

that in the midst of constant change

and on the verge of chaos

fun is always possible.

Needs work, but I like the sentiment.  The language has a ways to go yet.

Two reasons I am leaving my classroom now — one: there is a rat in my classroom, and our attempt to trap it in a humane trap last night did not work, so the exterminators are coming.  And two: I have a leak in my sprinkler system and when I left for work today, the earth was soaking wet and water was bubbling up as if from an underground spring.  Charming, but not a good idea during a drought.  Expensive, and wasteful.

Literary tattoos
Aug 1st, 2009 by alexfaye

IMG_0071Well, on my 52nd birthday, I’m getting my second tattoo — I’m thinking of two different poems.

Conscientious Objector, Edna St. Vincent Millay

I shall die, but
that is all that I shall do for Death.

I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself:
I will not give him a leg up.

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man’s door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city
are safe with me; never through me Shall you be overcome.

————

The next one is a lifetime favorite; I know this e.e. cummings poem by heart.

dive for dreams
or a slogan my topple you
(trees are their roots
and wind is wind)

trust your heart
if the seas catch fire
(can live by love
though the stars walk backward)

IMG_0077

honor the past
but welcome the future
(and dance your death
away at this wedding)

never mind a world
with its villains and heroes
(for god loves girls and tomorrow
and the earth)

The lines that are in bold are the lines may end up inked on my collar bone or my arm…still trying to decide.  A third choice may emerge.  I always have loved that angry Margaret Atwood poem:

We fit together/like a hook and eye/a fish hook/an open eye

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