Showing 181 - 190 of 519 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"
Summary:The author dedicates this collection to "my brother Andy, in memory." Indeed, the second half of the book (Part II) contains 22 poems that concern the brother's suicide at age 47. Although two poems in Part I are in memory of recently deceased poet-friends, most of Part I handles a variety of experiences, memories, and reflections, all written with self-deprecating humor. There is "My Worst Job Interview"; a poem about a writing class in which the instructor repeatedly announced to the class that Harrison was "hopeless" ("Fork"); a riff on being one of those "who know something about the world / but not a whole lot" ("Incomplete Knowledge"); a poem about a disastrous breakfast with a friend who is said to have Asperger's syndrome ("Breakfast with Dan"); and in a more serious vein, "My Personal Tornado," in which Harrison presciently speculates about "the maelstrom" that is bound to hit him, just as all lives undergo "this beast of wind that sucks you into / the updraft of its hungry funnel."
The narrator is a woman who lives alone in a rural area of Puget Sound. She is a writer, an observer, a spiritual thinker. "Each day is a god, each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time" begins her musings about the first of three days. But on day two, a catastrophe occurs: a small plane crashes and a seven-year-old girl’s face is "burned off" as she is carried away from the explosion in her father’s arms.
The narrator had met the girl once before, at a neighbor’s farm, and had formed a connection--they looked alike and the girl playfully tormented the narrator’s cat with a dress-up game. The narrator imagines the girl in the hospital, imagines her future life as a nun with no face, and ultimately imagines a gentler future in which the girl’s face is restored, she is married and the narrator has assumed the function of the nun for her.
Throughout, the narrator wrestles with the hard questions of life: why are we here; why do horrible things happen; what is the relationship of God and the world; where is God and what is he doing? She is angry: "Do we need blind men stumbling about, and little flamefaced children, to remind us what God can--and will--do?"
A Christian, she seeks answers in her wide-ranging theology, and seems to find an inroad in the idea of "Holy the Firm"--a substance lower than salts and minerals, below the earth’s crust, in touch with "the Absolute." The narrator hence posits that "Holy the Firm" allows for an unbroken circle between God, Christ, and the created world.
Summary:After living with various foster families, nine-year-old Gabe is taken to live with his aging Uncle Vernon in West Virginia. The relationship with his mother's gruff and distant older brother, a Vietnam vet, is distant at first, but warms up over time. But after his first day in 6th grade, Gabe comes home to find his uncle dead on the floor.
A dark-eyed, ten-year-old Indian pauses for a moment in playing with her friend to explain that she is soon to be married, but would rather stay at home and in school. Her friend announces that she will never get married; she wants to become a policeman. Another smiling child in Yemen wants to be a doctor to help people. She looks forward to wearing the hijab. Little girls with great family burdens, and others who have no families, all expect to become mothers themselves. They talk about their daily routines.
A confident child in Peru cooks, cleans, does laundry, and then washes, dresses and feeds her younger siblings, before putting on her crisp uniform and going off to school. Two shy girls from Africa describe the painful ritual of circumcision--and a "cutting" ceremony is observed from a modest distance. One talks about her separation from her mother and life as a slave.
Interspersed are scenes of the children playing. Commentary emphasizes how soon these little girls must become women and how much of the world's work and how little of its wealth belong to them.
When Rupert Darley, a twice married writer and teacher, shows up unannounced at his elderly parents’ home in rural Southeast England for a weekend, having just left his second wife, he has little reason to suspect that it will be the eventful weekend that it is. In only 170 pages, he is joined by his medical student daughter, Miranda (also called Milly), whose visit to her grandparents is expected by them but not by Rupert; he must come to grips with the harsh realities of aging, most especially that of his suddenly quite old and frail parents, whom he calls by their given names, Oliver and May; he and his daughter discuss for the first and most honest time their lives and those of their family; and they all must deal with the crisis of sudden unannounced illness.
Oliver is a well known architect who is stodgy and well aware of his eccentricities, tolerated but not allowed free range by May, his arthritic wife who is probably stronger in spirit than Oliver. The four of them discuss - jointly and in various permutations of groupings - a costly stair lift for May, Rupert's marriages and current (extended) mid-life crisis, Oliver's quixotic project to build a huge pyramid city complex, the vicissitudes of aging and approaching death (which is the elephant in the parlor in this book), health, illness and societal change.
Of interest to literature and medicine readers, Milly has frank conversations regarding end of life choices, to Rupert's initial dismay, with both grandparents individually and accompanies Oliver to the hospital in an ambulance when he has a heart attack at the end of the book.
Summary:The eight-line poem frustrates expectations about poetry. It stands like a small aside, a voice suggesting in rather emphatic terms, "so much depends upon," that the seemingly simple, often overlooked elements of life are what really matters. In fact, the short aside is akin to the wheelbarrow and "white chickens" in the poem--essential, but easily ignored. Pay attention, the speaker advises, to the ordinary, to the quotidian.
In the poem, persimmons are a symbol of several elements that have figured importantly in this Chinese narrator's life: they stand for painful memories of cultural barriers imposed by language and custom, and for a present-day loving connection to an elderly, blind father. The poet begins with a schoolboy incident in which he was punished for not knowing the difference between "persimmon" and "precision" and makes a play on other words which sound similar and "that got [him] into trouble." He takes revenge later, when the teacher brings to class a persimmon that only the narrator knows is unripe, as he "watched the . . . faces" without participating. Persimmons remind him of an adult sensual relationship with Donna, a Caucasian woman, and of his attempts to teach her Chinese words which he himself can no longer remember.
The second part of the poem describes the role persimmons have played in his father's life and in their relationship. To comfort his father, gone blind, the narrator gives him a sweet, ripe persimmon, so full and redolent with flavor that it will surely stimulate the senses remaining. Later yet again, the father and he "feel" a silk painting of persimmons, "painted blind / Some things never leave a person."
A fierce, powerful poem in which sexual and emotional intimacy between a couple reach their ultimate expression in the renewal of a promise "to kill each other", should one or the other become incapacitated. The narrator addresses her (his?) partner directly as "you"; so entwined are these two ("the halves of a single creature") that the reader isn’t certain whether the narrator is a man or a woman. The juxtaposition of the romantic restaurant setting, the deeply intimate thoughts, and the grim subject under discussion is striking: " . . . drinking Fume’ . . . we are taking on earth, we are part soil already . . . and always . . . we are also in our bed, fitted naked closely . . . ." One of the pair is afraid that the other won’t keep the promise, but "you don’t know me if you think I will not kill you."
Summary:This short poem is about work--all kinds of work--and what it takes out of us--physically, emotionally, spiritually: "All the work / that makes love difficult . . . that reaches the intestines and sprawls."
The narrator, painlessly removing a splinter from his wife's hand, recalls the scene when he was a boy of seven and his father removed an "iron sliver" splinter from his palm. The father had skillfully distracted his son by telling a story in a voice reassuring and low: "a well / of dark water, a prayer."
Darker themes are alluded to--his father's hands were used not just to give love and protection, but also discipline. The narrator notes that as a boy he did not over-dramatize the scene. Rather, something precious was exchanged between father and son. In fact, it could have appeared to the onlooker that the father was "planting" (rather than removing) "a silver tear, a tiny flame" on his son's palm. The poem ends with the boy holding the removed splinter and kissing his father.