A Man in Blue
Under the French horns of a November afternoon
a man in blue is raking leaves
with a wide wooden rake (whose teeth are pegs
or rather, dowels). Next door
boys play soccer: “You got to start
over!” sort of. A round attic window
in a radiant gray house waits like a kettledrum.
“You got to start . . .” The Brahmsian day
lapses from waltz to march. The grass,
rough-cropped as Bruno Walter’s hair,
is stretched, strewn and humped beneath a sycamore
wide and high as an idea of heaven
in which Brahms turns his face like a bearded thumb
and says, “There is something I must tell you!”
to Bruno Walter. “In the first movement
of my Second, think of it as a family
planning where to go next summer
in terms of other summers. A material ecstasy,
subdued, recollective.” Bruno Walter
in a funny jacket with a turned-up collar
says, “Let me sing it for you.”
He waves his hands and through the vocalese-shaped spaces
of naked elms he draws a copper beech
ignited with a few late leaves. He bluely glazes
a rhododendron “a sea of leaves” against gold grass.
There is a snapping from the brightwork
of parked and rolling cars.
There almost has to be a heaven! so there could be
a place for Bruno Walter
who never needed the cry of a baton.
in a small, dusty, rather gritty, somewhat scratchy
Magnavox from which a forte
drops like a used Brillo Pad?
Frayed. But it’s hard to think of the sky as a thick glass floor
with thick-soled Viennese boots tromping about on it.
It’s a whole lot harder thinking of Brahms
in something soft, white, and flowing.
“Life,” he cries (here, in the last movement),
“is something more than beer and skittles!”
“And the something more
is a whole lot better than beer and skittles,”
says Bruno Walter,
darkly, under the sod. I don’t suppose it seems so dark
to a root. Who are these men in evening coats?
What are these thumps?
Where is Brahms?
And Bruno Walter?
Ensconced in resonant plump easy chairs
covered with scuffed brown leather
in a pungent autumn that blends leaf smoke
(sycamore, tobacco, other),
their nobility wound in a finale
like this calico cat
asleep, curled up in a breadbasket,
on a sideboard where the sun falls.
I’m kinda looking forward to fall this year.
Who has taken over this blog, and what have they done with Rebecca?!
I don’t completely get it either, but I’m going to ride with this strange-but-nice feeling: not dreading the change of season, welcoming the cool breeze at night that suggests I tug the comforter a bit closer to my ears, anticipating the fall bounty, not whining (too much) as summer heads south.
In particular, I’m enjoying the oblique angle of the light, skipping over treetops to light the fields, the rocks, the flowers, the river.
I’m thinking a lot about apples. Cider, sauce, adorable little hand pies.
Oh, and chili and stews and mahogany-colored baked beans. Loaves of freshly baked bread.
Birthdays, holidays, and celebrations.
A wide, dark sky, the milky way painted in a prominent arc.
Fall usually seems to me a closing door, the end of things, and shutting in until spring.
For some reason, though, I feel slightly hopeful about this fall. I feel the new, clean air like a bright edge of promise, a hard, clear dividing line between what was behind and what is ahead. It makes sense that the Jewish New Year is nearly here. A clean start, a shrugging off the lazy days of summer, a time to move inside, gather thoughts, gather friends, make feasts.
I don’t know how long this feeling will last. You can be sure of reading my moans and groans about winter come November. I’m not that utterly changed.
Ask me tomorrow, and I may deny everything.
I looked at my to-do list this morning and it pretty much looked like this:
5. Write a blog post.
I’ve got a big project to wrap up; there’s no time to mess around today; this blog will just have to wait a few more days.
And then, I realized something really important. Today is my father-in-law’s birthday!
Bob is 89 today. He’s one of my most faithful readers, and if there’s any reason at all in the world to ignore that to-do list for ten minutes, this is it.
If we were there with you today, Bob, first thing I’d be doing is baking a birthday cake for you. Nothing too big or crazy. But you have to have a cake on your birthday and I’ve never made one for you. I need to fix that.
And then we’d all be telling you about the week: last weekend’s visit to Boston for L’s birthday, work, camps, the animals, things we’d been cooking, the fire ring we’ve been planning to build all summer but haven’t gotten to yet.
We’d tell you that, yesterday afternoon, Hyla and friends and I went swimming at a nearby pond. How we all swam laps around the floating dock. How the kids called Gryfe into the water with his leash and then took turns having him tow them in to shore, over and over. How they got out all warm-but-shivery, wrapped themselves in towels, and bought ice cream cones at the snack bar across the street.
And our friend, J, gave Gryfe the tip of her cone. And Gryfe licked the little bit of ice cream out of it as gracefully as a dog can, before swallowing the last of the cone in one doggy gulp.
We’d talk about what’s happening in the world, the Olympics just about to start, what’s going on with friends, news from far-flung aunts, uncles, and cousins.
In the afternoon, after running an errand, maybe we’d have a beer in anticipation of dinner and that cake.
And we’d let the evening fall around us, maybe not talking much at all, just being there, all together, telling you, maybe not in so many out-loud words, but in hugs and looks and smiles, how much we love you, how grateful we are to have you in our lives, how lucky we are to know such a kind, gentle, and thoughtful man.
How we wish you much happiness and health on this birthday, and many many more.
Ðá cóm of móre under misthleoþum
Grendel gongan· godes yrre bær·
mynte se mánscaða manna cynnes
sumne besyrwan in sele þám héan·
wód under wolcnum tó þæs þe hé wínreced
goldsele gumena gearwost wisse
faéttum fáhne· ne wæs þæt forma síð
þæt hé Hróþgáres hám gesóhte·
naéfre hé on aldordagum aér ne siþðan
heardran haéle healðegnas fand.
Cóm þá to recede rinc síðian
dréamum bedaéled· duru sóna onarn
fýrbendum fæst syþðan hé hire folmum æthrán
onbraéd þá bealohýdig ðá hé gebolgen wæs,
recedes múþan· raþe æfter þon
on fágne flór féond treddode·
éode yrremód· him of éagum stód
ligge gelícost léoht unfaéger·
geseah hé in recede rinca manige
swefan sibbegedriht samod ætgædere
magorinca héap. Þá his mód áhlóg:
mynte þæt hé gedaélde aér þon dæg cwóme
atol áglaéca ánra gehwylces
líf wið líce þá him álumpen wæs
wistfylle wén. Ne wæs þæt wyrd þá gén
þæt hé má móste manna cynnes
ðicgean ofer þá niht·
-Beowulf, lines 710-736
In off the moors, down through the mist bands
God-cursed Grendel came greedily loping.
The bane of the race of men roamed forth,
hunting for a prey in the high hall.
Under the cloud-murk he moved towards it
until it shown above him, a sheer keep
of fortified gold. Nor was that the first time
he had scouted the grounds of Hrothgar’s dwelling–
although never in his life, before or since,
did he find harder fortune or hall-defenders.
Spurned and joyless, he journeyed on ahead
and arrived at the brawn. The iron-braced door
turned on it hinge when his hands touched it.
Then his rage boiled over, he ripped open
the mouth of the building, maddening for blood,
pacing the length of the patterned floor
with his loathsome tread, while a baleful light,
flame more than light, flared from his eyes.
He saw many men in the mansion, sleeping,
a ranked company of kinsmen and warriors
quartered together. And his glee was demonic,
picturing the mayhem: before morning
he would rip life from limb and devour them,
feed on their flesh; but his fate that night
was due to change, his days of ravening
had come to an end.
–Beowulf, lines 710-736, translated by Seamus Heaney (2000)