Thursday, January 21, 2010

Weiser River Pillow Book #14


[Here’s the final installment of Eberle’s Weiser River Pillow Book—although some editing has been done along the way, the majority of the work is now available on Robert Frost’s Banjo, & the link to this writing will continue to appear in the sidebar for the foreseeable future.]

THINGS THAT SHOULD BE SHINY

The fake mother-of-pearl buttons on a rodeo shirt.

Windows on a mirrored glass skyscraper. When these are not shiny, it appears that the whole purpose of progress has failed.

Blackberries picked in late summer.


THINGS THAT SHOULD NOT BE SHINY

Cars.

The interior of a church.

The front doorknob of a house surrounded by trees.


SQUALID THINGS

The smell of an empty school corridor lined with lockers above which are student drawings of ways to save the environment.

A trowel that has rusted with dirt still on it.

Chicory that has flowered close to the ground after being mowed.

An unmatched sock.


THINGS WORTH SEEING

Magpies landing outside the kitchen window after the first snowfall.

On the floodplain of a river, an abandoned house through which vines are growing and covering half the roof with leaves.

A county fair where there are many kinds of poultry and pigeons, also goats.

A forest three years after a wildfire has passed through it.

You are walking through the woods thinking how silent it is and how alone you are, and then you notice at the base of a huckleberry bush, a hairbrush, ruined by weather, the gold lettering on its back almost legible.


THINGS THAT MAKE YOU THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE

The sound of a refrigerator late at night can bring an aquarium to mind—the tiny bubbling treasure chest and diver never reaching it—the trapped light.

It is the middle of summer and you know there is no chance of rain. Nonetheless, a truck going by on the highway makes a sound like thunder and for a moment you shiver deliciously.

When the cottonwood trees are releasing cotton in the spring, it does look like snow in the air and yet does not bring winter to mind.


ODIOUS THINGS

The plastic countertop where it has come loose from the edge of the kitchen sink,

The "Sealed For Your Protection" seals on aspirin and chopstick.

At a community meeting, sitting next to someone who bites his nails.

Gas stations and restaurants that are part of national chains, erupting in the rural landscape like the signs of an inevitable disease.


HAUNTING THINGS

The image of oneself as a child.

On the verge of sleep, repeatedly, being awakened by imaginary alarm cries coming from the guinea hen coop.

When the sun has almost set behind the highway, a passing truck blocks the last of the light and the house goes dark for an instant longer than a blink.


THINGS THAT ARE NO BETTER THAN THEY SHOULD BE

The mop bucket.

Crocuses after their first bloom, especially the large kind.

One's girlhood crushes.



THINGS THAT ARE AT HOME IN THE WORLD

A robin standing on a fence post.

An old seeder rusting on a hillside above abandoned fields.

A dinghy moored in the small pool of a rock-crushing pit.

The desk and window in my studio.

An eagle's nest on top of a power pole.


THINGS THAT LOOK GOOD IN JARS

Dried beans—especially black garbanzos and striped lima beans you have grown yourself.

Star anise.

Pickled beets.

Coriander seed from the garden.


THINGS THAT DO NOT LOOK GOOD IN JARS

Pig's feet.

Scientific specimens of any kind.

Leftover tomato paste.


THINGS THAT GIVE THE SENSATION OF FALLING

Standing in a supermarket aisle surrounded by varieties of canned tomatoes that seem to have proliferated since the last time you were there. Varieties of breakfast cereal also create this sensation; varieties of tea, however, do not.

Thinking about a phone number you have lost.

Being about to fall asleep and waking suddenly.


PAIRS THAT GIVE PLEASURE

When the leaves of the cottonwood trees by the side of the highway are the exact same shade of yellow as the double line.

When the line of a jet trail in the eastern sky is the same color as the clouds around the setting sun.

How sometimes I hear the traffic on the highway above my house and it sounds just like a river.

Eating pears and grapes together.


LARGELY UNRECOGNIZED MASCULINIST ASSAULTS ON THE WORLD

All music on the radio.

All systems of measurement.

Women who give their children the last name of their husbands.


THINGS ON A GIANT SCALE

Rolls of hay stacked in shelters; three rolls on top looking like an enormous clover leaf.
Erosion on the side of a small hill can create the impression of a massive distant mountain range seen from above.

Near the spring that feeds the house under a wild plum tree, there is an ant-mound that is two feet high. In itself it seems strikingly large; still, the yellow plum leaf resting on it looks huge.


TWO TOWNS NORTH OF HERE

There are many more new cars. There are stores selling clothes for outdoor recreation.

There are no magpies, quail, or black widows. Very few cottonwood trees, lots of pine trees.

In the streams, caddis flies use bits of pine needles in their shell-casings.


INEXPLICABLE THINGS

Electricity.

When continuing a diary in a new notebook, the desire to make a gesture of formal introduction of some kind, however subtle or oblique. To whom?

The pleasure of shining the old chrome-covered clock-timer on the stove. It doesn't work, is not attractive, and yet the tenderness I feel for it never fails to spring up when I’m cleaning the stovetop.


THINGS DESIRED FOR A WHILE BUT NOT ACQUIRED

A clothesline.

An extra steak knife.

Two large steel-covered bass drums.


THINGS DESIRED FOR A WHILE AND RECENTLY ACQUIRED

A blue enamel bucket to hold scraps for the chickens.

A medium-sized doumbek.

A jumper for fall. The perfect fall jumper is of medium weight, very soft, not binding anywhere. Long enough to give a feeling of serenity but still allowing for easy motion. It should not create a feeling of loudness or of primness.


THINGS THAT MARK A POINT IN TIME

Planting garlic.

Taking down the hammock.

Putting hats and mittens in a basket on the dryer.

Eberle Umbach
© 2000-2010






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9 comments:

  1. I love this series. Poignant, introspective, and sometimes funny.

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  2. I, too, love this series. So thoughtful and beautiful. There is something eerily haunting about looking at our childhood pictures.

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  3. Hi Jacqueline & Willow: Thanks to you both. This has been a great series--I'm so glad Eberle made it available, & so glad you both enjoyed it.

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  4. This is wonderfully quirky. And even where there are items that fall outside one's own purlieu, one recognises their absolute relevance. Bring back the pillow book!

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  5. If I may:

    Squalid Things

    The receptacle that houses the toilet brush.
    The bottom of the kitchen compost bin.

    Odious things:
    The litter box after I skip a day of going down to the cold basement.

    Conversations about earning and success and status.

    Things desired for a while, but not acquired:
    a new bathtub
    a sink that doesn't collect crap in one corner because the floor is tilted.
    a grassless front garden
    a reading lamp for the living room.

    Things desired and acquired:

    A new mattress and organic sheets.
    A vet's diagnosis and a manageable result.
    A blender.

    Your words inspired me, Eberle. I hope you don't mind me jumping in.

    I so so enjoy your writing and will be revisiting this series from time to time.

    Kat

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  6. Dear Poetikat!
    It was simply lovely to read your list-poems! I especially liked the litter-box-and-cold-basement moment - that created a whole scene for me. Another favorite: the grassless garden. First of all because I totally relate to that one, but also because the line itself evokes the fact of a complex relationship between grass in the lawn and grass in the garden...

    I got this list-poem idea from the 11th century (or thereabouts?) poet Sei Shonagon, and borrowed some of her titles like Squalid Things - I think she had newborn mice as one of her squalid things.

    When I first read Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book I was really inspired by it and some of my friends were writing these with me for a while - I missed it when they stopped doing that! (The project might have survived as a blog, but this was in the pre-blog era.) But I think it's a wonderful form to share with friends - I look forward to seeing more of yours if your poetic spirit takes you in that direction. Maybe it will inspire me to write some more too. I remember really loving this as a way to start the day...

    And thanks! What could be a happier thing than sharing a poetic form with a friend and sharing the writing that comes from it?

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  7. I have really enjoyed this series and am tempted to immitation - the most sincere form of flattery, you know. I'll miss these.

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  8. Dear Karen,
    if you feel inspired to write poetry based on this idea, I'm sure you would enjoy it and I would really recommend that you give it a try! I found it very freeing in ways that are hard to describe. It was like discovering details of everyday life that I treasured without being completely aware of it - like finding out I had this lovely treasure chest and all I had to do to open it was to focus on some small detail that had caught my eye during the day. I would love to see what you wrote - it would be really cool to see what different people came up with for the same titles. Thanks for commenting!

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  9. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Lucy

    http://toddlergirls.net

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