Tender Miracles

April 8, 2010

An e-mail from University Press of Mississippi a couple of days ago: the paperback edition of Dreaming in Clay: Love and Art at Shearwater is “due in the warehouse.”  Not sure when I’ll have copies, or what the book looks like. The first edition was published at Doubleday a distant decade ago, but I still feel affection for the book, the adventure of writing it, and the family whose creative life we tried to portray. María Estrella wrote a  warm, funny, lively introduction to the Andersons of Ocean Springs… Ah, the trips we made back and forth to the Coast, at first from Nashville, and later from Chicago. Longing to get away.

Yesterday after lunch I drove down Commonwealth Avenue to WBUR, our NPR station at Boston University and did an long-distance interview  with Larry Morrisey, of the Mississippi Arts Commission, the attentive host of “Mississippi Arts Hour.”  The interview will be broadcast soon, along with a segment of music by Jason Stebly who, together with his cousin Patrick Ashley, helped rebuild Shearwater Pottery after Katrina.

I was hoping to quote from Ashleys and Andersons… that was the idea of the Shearwater book, with its hundreds of quotations–  far too many, but I came to love some of those voices, which spoke from the past in journals and letters and poems. Larry Morrisey seems to take a similar approach: he likes to let his guests talk, and to keep his own intervention to a minimum. He succeeded, and I failed! I managed to read Mary Pickard’s evocation of her grandmother, Annette McConnell Anderson, who willed Shearwater into existence, but forgot to mention, let alone quote from, Andersons whose work I admire… And, despite Larry’s thoughtfulness, there wasn’t time enough to read what I wanted to: the Anderson poems in “Dreaming in Clay.”

I wanted to read this verse by Agnes Grinstead Anderson (Sissy), on the death of her “almost sister” Ellen Mead, to whom she probably felt closer than to anyone in the world.

And you will find, my darling,
that the road
from consciousness to consciousness
is not the long dark passage
we were taught to fear
but that love lights it
like a star confined
and all our joys and hopes
may follow there
and in our memories,
if we are left behind,
there is no barrier to daily converse,
there is no absence of the one we love.

…..or the exchange of poems between Sissy and Leif, who helped her mother write a different sort of poetry (see the book!)  Or this poem by Annette (once studied by Kendall). Both have dreamed, as we did, of  the “tender miracles” that occur when we can get away, “even for a day.”

My mind is just a path
trodden hard,
from the kitchen to the gate
in the yard.
but let me get away
even for a day,
and green things sprout and grow.
The hard earth softens,
even in a day.
My mind is full of little tender shoots
and roots
of lovely things crushed
waiting in the dark
to bloom.
A room
is all I need,
a city room, Y.W.C.A.
You know the sort,
a Gideon bible and a cushioned chair,
a glimpse above the roofs
of sky
and there
my mind begins to blossom like a flower,
a poppy,
not a rose.
A sheath bursts
and, the crumpled petals
free,
my mind begins to open
as the wings
of locusts crowded in the shell
long years
far underground
and now
at last
released,
unfold
in tender miracles of green and gold.

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2 Responses to “Tender Miracles”

  1. Kendall Says:

    Sitting here reading this post, tears streaming down my face, I am so glad blogs exist. So glad poems exist. So glad you and I exist, Christopher, to re-member. I love the Basotho belief that our ancestors (by which they mean all beings who have gone before us through that door of darkness) linger and assist us so long as we pay occasional homage to their memory…that they only leave us if we leave them…by forgetting.


    • Thank you, dear Kendall, how good to have your comment. I love that conjunction of Mississippians and Basotho ancestors! Only you could bring them together. I am so bad at remembering my own ancestors, beyond the closest ones, though I often think of the epitaph, the reproach from those who have “gone before us through that door of darkness”:
      Remember me! You are the only life I have!


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